AbstractM ore than a billion pounds of pesticides are used annually in the United States. While agriculture is the major user, home use is increasing rapidly for control of cockroaches, ants, mosquitoes, flies, fleas, and other pests. The average gardener's shed contains enough chemicals to kill his entire family several times over. Pesticides are toxic substances used specifically because they do kill or harm living things, and sometimes it seems that they are more harmful to humans than to insects. Insects are adept at becoming immune to pesticides, hut obviously we and our companion animals have no such built-in system of dealing with their toxic effects.
Once pesticides are inside our homes, they contaminate our furniture, carpets, and many other surfaces for months or even years. The residues endure because there is no sunlight, fresh air, wind, or rain to break them down or wash them away. The highest levels of pesticide residue are found in house dust, especially carpet dust, making pesticide spray on carpets a long-term hazard to indoor birds. Parrots are exquisitely sensitive to inhaled toxins, reason enough for all parrot owners to diligently avoid the use of synthetic pesticides.
There is abundant evidence of the risk that synthetic pesticides pose to human and animal health. By using natural pest deterrents that have been used successfully for generations, we can minimize the risk to ourselves and our birds. Here are some natural methods of dealing with both indoor and outdoor pests.
• One aviculturist came up with this ingenious solution. She places some of the birds' discarded soft food in a plastic Ziploc bag in the evening. By morning, the bag is full of fruit flies and is sealed and thrown out. • Place saucers of fruity fragrant wine with a few drops of detergent in areas frequented by fruit flies. Chardonnay wine seems to be their favorite.
• Place fragrant fruit such as mango peels in the bottom of wine bottles. Fruit flies fly in and cannot fly out. • Place sticky fly strips (without pesticides) into an old bird cage or basket out of the reach of children, birds, and other pets. Make your own sticky paper by boiling sugar, com syrup, and water together. Spread the mixture on brown paper grocery bags.
• Wash countertops, cabinets, and floor with equal parts vinegar and water to deter ant infestations.
• Sprinkle powdered cinnamon on ant trails. Several types of ants won't cross a barrier of cinnamon powder.
• Use powdered charcoal, bone meal, talcum powder, or chalk as a barrier along ant trails.
• Parrot cage legs can be placed within shallow pans filled with water - like small moats that ants cannot cross. • Locate the ant colony and pour boiling water into it. If you can find a hole where ants are entering the house, squeeze the juice of a lemon into the hole or crack. Then put the lemon peels all around the entrance.
• Grow spearmint, peppermint, pennyroyal, southern wood, and tansy plants around the border of your home to deter ants and the aphids that they carry.
• Fire Ants - Killing the egg-laying queen is the only way to destroy the colony. Choose a day when the ground is dry and the rain is at least a day away. Then gently sprinkle a teaspoon of instant grits on each fire ant hill. The worker ants cany the grits to the queen who eats them. When she drinks water, the grits expand in her stomach and kill her. The remainder of the hill dies within a day. (From Tightwad Gazette II book.)
• Note that different types of ants have different preferences, so what works for one type may not work for another.
• Prevention -- Close off all cracks around pipes and electric lines where roaches enter the house by using cement, screening, or Brillo pads. Caulk small cracks along baseboards, walls, cupboards, and around pipes, sinks, and bathtub fixtures. Seal food tightly. Rinse food off dishes that are left overnight. Do not leave pet food out overnight.
• Release small geckos in your home and aviary. Provide dishes of water for them to drink. They will feast upon the roaches at night in the late evening, and sleep out of sight during daylight hours.
• Cut Hedge Apples (Osage Orange) in half and place several in the basement, around in cabinets, or under the house to repel roaches. Osage Orange is a fast growing shrub which can he grown as a hedge around homes and aviaries. The crushed fruits of this plant are said to attract and kill cockroaches.
• Baking soda and powdered sugar mixed in equal parts and spread around infested area is a non-toxic roach killer.
• Diatomaceous earth (DE) can he sprinkled on areas where roaches are seen. Parrots should not breathe the powder as it is being applied in the aviary. One brand available in natural food markets is "Concern" by Necessary Organics, Inc.