Monarchs // separate: pesticides

Martha V. Lutz & Charles T. Lutz lutzrun at
Tue Aug 15 13:05:39 EDT 2000


I've been asking a lot of questions about Monarchs, and here's the latest:

Has anyone else seen them eat the green pod covers?  Mine are not just
nibbling but feeding vigorously on the green parts of unripe seed pods.
Not for lack of fresh leaves, either.  The pods just got tossed into a cage
of caterpillars my kids are raising, and I glanced in to see the larvae
eating the pods too . . . a nursery milkweed, with narrow leaves and narrow
pods, not their usual species.  There were about 10 larvae on the plant in
my front yard, and the kids brought them in last night.

Also, I heard this from Paul:

"Many monarch breeders have observed
caterpillars eating eggs, each other and chrysalids. Some
anecdotal accounts can be found here:"

Thanks!  I'll have to switch computers to check the web site; this old '93
freezes when I use the www.  It's good for e-mail, though.

Maybe I'll have my kids do the footwork.

Yesterday they were HURTING for something to do (school starts in 6
days!!!) so I suggested something that they could spend time on.  The
result was the item below; some of you might be interested to read it:


Monday was hot, humid, and horrible in Iowa, and I had six kids (only five
were mine) with excess energy and not enough focus.  I printed a few of the
recent Entomo-L postings, handed them to the older kids (above age 12) and
suggested that they write a Position Paper.

Initial reaction:  'We don't know anything about this or how to do it.'
Within 15 minutes they understood that they could adopt an identity (they
decided to become an environmental activist group), select a position, and
write an essay exploring both sides of an issue and presenting evidence and
arguments for the position they selected to defend.

Less than 30 minutes after I made the suggestion, three of the older kids
were hard at work.  They tracked down resources, argued their positions,
collected evidence, collaborated on the final written work, and produced
something that some of you might find interesing.  It took them from about
3 until past 6, and it was a quiet, peaceful afternoon for me!

By the way, I was baking cookies (in another room) most of the time, and
did NOT instruct them as to what position to take.  I didn't even see the
written work until it was finished, with the exception of one sentence (the
issue was the use of one versus two versus no commas to set off a
clause--purely copy edit stuff).

I'm deleting the name of the child who is not mine, since I have not asked
his parents for permission to release his name.  Mike is 13, Claudia is 16;
they are my kids.


Picking Poisons
by Mike Lutz, Claudia Lutz, & A.

We are environmental activists.  It has come to our attention that
widespread pesticide use has an adverse effect on the environment.
Although low levels of toxicity can be justified by their improving effect
on food production levels, their negative effects are currently outweighing
the positive ones.  For example, there is a 100-mile death zone surrounding
the delta of the Mississippi River in Louisiana caused by pesticide runoff
in the Midwest.  This causes the death of many varieties of marine life,
some of which are a major part of people's diet. It also kills sea grass,
which previously prevented islands and coastline from eroding into the sea.
Benefits gained in agricultural output are therefore to a significant degree
cancelled by the loss of other food resources, as well as the destruction of
previously available land space.
Some form of pest control is necessary.  The current and predicted future
world population cannot be supported by the yield of only organic farming.
So if small levels of toxicity presenting minor health risks could be an
alternative to an enforced "population control" due to widespread
starvation, obviously pesticides would be the better option.
However, this reasoning is not accurate because it fails to address all the
issues; the situation requires evaluation taking the following points into
account.  First, while low levels of toxicity might be a worthwhile
trade-off, the same argument is not viable for more life- or
environment-threatening levels.  As was discussed above, such levels could
even reduce available food resources.
Secondly, pesticides are not the only available pest control.  Some
alternative, non-toxic methods are already being used.  Introduced
predators, genetic engineering, manipulation of sex pheromones and other
such methods may not be applicable in all situations, but where they are
used successfully they rival pesticides in a significant way.
Predators, such as ladybugs or wasps, can be introduced to help control
pests.  By introducing predators, it is possible to naturally, and without
harming the environment, reduce pest populations.  This is not possible with
every kind of pest, however, when used in combination with other methods of
pest control, it is feasible.
An approach is the creation of genetically modified crops that would be
designed to produce toxins that would deter pests without harming humans.
Although this is a fairly controversial issue, there has been, so far, no
concrete proof that GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) such as Bt corn
pose any health risk to any species other than the one specifically targeted
by the toxin.  Additionally, it must be considered that this possibility has
not even been fully explored, and further research may produce even better
results.  So long as there is a modification to be made, this seems to be
one of the best viable alternative to currently used pesticides.  Still,
this cannot always be used, more research is required to develop uses in
other crops, and significant resistance caused by ignorance among the
general population stand in the way.
Another possible method is the use of pheromones to lure insects into a
trap.  Some species could be sufficiently suppressed in this way.  Not all
insects would respond in the desired way to this treatment, though.
Clearly, no single method is sufficient to solve the complex problem of pest
control.  What about using all of the available resources in logical
combination?  This possible solution, called IPM (integrated pest
management) would judiciously combine different methods, according to their
respective strengths and weaknesses.  Thus, the benefits of pesticides could
be reaped without posing a significant threat to the environment, because
they would be supplemented by a variety of non-toxic methods.  Pest
management is a multi-faceted problem; a multi-faceted solution seems to us
to be the best solution of all.


I was surprised when I read it.  Maybe the Earth will be in good hands with
the next generation . . .

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