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The Green Life: Mr. Green Week: Did Pesticides Whack My Birdies?

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March 14, 2012

Mr. Green Week: Did Pesticides Whack My Birdies?

Mr. GreenIn honor of St. Patrick's Day, we're featuring our appropriately attired advice guru, Mr. Green. This week, we'll treat you to a few treasured columns from the archives and some rare behind-the-scenes videos — if you're lucky.

Got a question for Mr. Green? Submit it here.

Hey Mr. Green,

I usually don't use herbicides or pesticides on my lawn, but I'm planning to sell the house and wanted to appeal to more buyers, so I used them. I noticed the robins were gone right away and didn't come back. Is this connection possible after one application?

 --Maxine in Sauk Rapids, Minnesota

It is indeed possible that the pesticides whacked your robins. According to our friends at the Audubon Society, there are a dozen pesticides approved for home use that could kill birds. Consult Audubon's roster of toxic substances (some of which may also be harmful to humans) to get the dirt on lawn-care chemicals. 

U.S. farmers take heat for their pesticide use, but the sad fact is that the country's home owners recklessly slather on the stuff in far greater concentrations. According to the EPA, households apply 85 million pounds to 17 million residential acres, or 5 pounds per acre, while farmers use about 1.4 pounds per acre on 815 million acres of crops and pasture.

We've already done enough harm to the birdies — like my beloved bobolinks and eastern meadowlarks, whose populations have dropped more than 50 percent over the past 40 years.

So let's hope and pray that the real estate crash doesn't prompt millions of panicked home owners to dump yet more pesticides on their lawns to regain property value. I'd hate to see birds become the latest victims of greedy banking schemes and derivative sharks.

It's easy to learn to care for gardens with minimal or no use of pesticides; check out the video below for pointers.

BONUS VIDEO! See Mr. Green's pesticide-free garden.

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