For Release April 22, 2003

Nature: Itís In Our Yards, Itís In Our Homes

by Chuck Otte, Geary County Extension Agent

Sometime, in the last 40 years or so, there has been an interesting transformation in the mainstream American. A state of mind has developed in the most recent couple of generations of Americans that they think they can have an insect free yard and a perfectly pest free home. I feel that companies like Raid and Black Flag have to share part of the responsibility for this. Those of you who can remember television commercials from the 1960s probably remember those ads.

While a totally pest free environment is a nice concept, nothing can be further from the truth! While we often try to ignore it, humans are part of the natural world. Pests of all kinds come and go into our homes on a regular basis. Perhaps ignorance is bliss. Our yards are part of a natural ecosystem. It is impractical, and unhealthy for that ecosystem, to try to have that ecosystem without insects, or snakes or rodents or birds.

As much as we are offended or grossed out or scared by those natural creatures, they have always been there, they are there now and they will always be there. Get used to it! It never ceases to amaze me at the insects, and other creatures, that are brought to me for identification with the immediate next question being how to eliminate it. Most of these homeowners donít want to hear me say that the problem will pass in a few days, just ignore it. Or worse yet, there is nothing that can be done to control the problem.

I watch young children run in panic from a garter snake. I watch adults and children both panic when an insect of any kind lands on them. Iím sure part of these reactions is a simple, and natural, fear of the unknown. But part of it is also a reaction learned from parents or grandparents. I had some small insects brought in the other day for identification. They were the insects that cause the bumps on the hackberry trees. And for a first few warm days it was hard to walk around a hackberry tree without getting a healthy collection of these on yourself. They wonít cause you any harm, but I had homeowners ready to nuke their yards with any chemical Iíd recommend to get rid of them.

I have horrified homeowners bring in cockroaches, ready to make a deal with the devil if they simply wonít be cockroaches. Call me sadistic, but I enjoy reassuring them that they are, in fact, cockroaches. It also creates an opportunity for some education to occur. Again, the public has developed the idea that if they have cockroaches, or some other insect pest, in their home, then they have failed as a housekeeper.

We have some serious misconceptions that need correction. While a dirty house or a filthy house is going to have a much greater risk of insect and pest infestations, a clean house is not immune from them. Cockroaches, like many other insects, can enter a home in many different ways and almost all homes are going to have to deal with some kind of insect infestation or another at some time.

What we need to do is understand our place in the natural world. We are part of it and we are going to share it with many other members, such as insects and snakes. You donít have to have them as your best friend. There are many things you can do to reduce the numbers you have in your home and yard. But youíre never going to get rid of them. Thereís no need to freak out, simply learn about your neighbors and get over it. After all, lifeís too short to worry about the next unexpected critter you find in your house, in your yard or on your arm!


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