DEAR READERS: This first letter is in response to a recent column about what I called the "insanity" of maintaining monoculture lawns.
DEAR DR. FOX: The real insanity is nitwits like you folks with your bull-crap environmental wokeness. Don't cut the grass for a month? That's a breeding environment for mosquitoes and ticks. I've been a gardener for decades. I use pesticides very judiciously. I also cut my grass, and still have a plethora of fauna, including rabbits, foxes, groundhogs, squirrels, etc. I also fish and hunt, and have contributed more money toward preservation with license fees and donations than any 10 "environmentalists." Give it a break. -- J.T., address withheld
DEAR J.T.: I understand the new term "wokeness," and its derogatory implications, as distinct from being informed and aware. I wish to inform you about some aspects of lawn mowing, which kills beneficial animals like toads, frogs and snakes, and about pesticides, which kill insectivorous animals. They either consume pesticide-poisoned prey or starve to death when there are no insects to feed upon.
The "No Mow" movement aims to bring back pollinators and encourage people to "re-wild" their lawns. There are plants that repel ticks and other insects, which gardeners should put in place of their lawns. These include lavender, garlic, rosemary and mint. (For details, visit buglord.com/plants-that-repel-ticks.)
Keeping deer away from one's property will help prevent tick infestation, as does controlled burning of vegetation in the fall. Many state park authorities now practice controlled burning rather than spraying insecticides in public spaces.
Various insects, including ticks, have a variety of natural predators: spiders, frogs, toads and birds, but also opossums, shrews, squirrels, chipmunks, domestic chickens and wild turkeys. In addition, frogs, toads, bats and various bird species consume mosquitoes. The widespread use of insecticides and rodenticides has decimated these insectivorous and omnivorous creatures, aquatic and terrestrial, thus contributing to the proliferation of ticks, mosquitoes and other insects that can transmit diseases to humans and other animals.
According to the University of Maine, certain fungi show promise as a natural form of tick control: "The use of pathogenic fungi is perhaps the most promising biological control for ticks. These fungi penetrate the tick's cuticle, or outer covering, move into the body, and ultimately kill both nymphal and adult stages of the tick. Commercial products containing these fungi are available for both granular and spray applications." (See extension.umaine.edu/ticks/management/biological-control for more.)
I think we find common ground in caring for wildlife, such as the kind you mention coming to your property -- rabbits, foxes, groundhogs, etc. -- but I do not hunt or fish because I am a vegetarian. And with a human population of over 7 billion, the fewer animals we consume, the better it is for our planet's biodiversity and ecological viability.
'FOREVER CHEMICALS' FOUND IN GARDEN FERTILIZER
Chemicals known as PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) are used by many industries to create stain-, water- and grease-resistant products. But PFAS have been increasingly linked to health issues like cancer, birth defects and liver disease, and are sometimes called "forever chemicals" because they persist in the environment for so long.
These substances could be found very close to home. From EcoWatch.com: "From the looks of it, 'forever chemicals' could also be called 'everywhere chemicals.' PFAS have shown up in everything from drinking water to mothers' milk -- and most recently, in the fertilizers home gardeners use to grow food. A recent report published by the Ecology Center and the Sierra Club tested home fertilizers made from sewage waste for PFAS and found the chemicals in all nine of the fertilizers they tested. Further, eight of the nine fertilizers contained PFAS levels greater than the limit set by the state of Maine, which currently has the toughest regulations for PFAS concentration in agriculture."
(Send all mail to email@example.com or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.
Visit Dr. Fox’s website at DrFoxOneHealth.com.)