Spring is just around the corner, and with it, another season of battling insects and diseases. Back in September '04, I covered some common sense tips for pesticide handling. I would like to reiterate some of the more important points as well as bring you up to date on some of the things that have been happening over the winter.
Handling pesticides safely should be common sense, yet I find that this "sense" isn't as common as you would think. First you must make sure to always read and follow the label directions. This is extremely important as the label is actually a legal document, and failure to follow what is written on that label is illegal. The label will tell you the rates and amounts of the material to apply and warn you of any hazards -such as if it is toxic to bees or domestic animals. Make sure that you are wearing the proper protective equipment when you are applying any materials. This information will also be found on the label. You might be surprised to know that if you apply lime to your lawn, then you should be wearing at least a dust mask or respirator. The powdered lime stone can be breathed in and can cause breathing difficulties. If you are unsure of your self or do not wish to handle these materials, call a licensed professional. You should always make sure that the people working on your lawn or trees have the proper licenses, ask to see them, this will help to cut down on the unlicensed fly-by-nighters that are all around.
The same goes for any tree work- when you hire a tree company, you should make sure that the company employs ISA (International Society of Arboriculture) Certified Arborists. Anyone with a chainsaw and a climbing belt can claim that they are an "Arborist", but it takes commitment to the industry, not commitment to the almighty dollar, to go for the certification tests and maintain the highest quality in training and more importantly, ethics. A word of caution- if you are one of the people that shop for tree companies out of the penny saver, then you will not find any certified arborists listed. The companies that you find in that paper are tree-men and don't have the same high standards of my fellow certified arborists. If the company claims to have a certified arborist, ask to see his certification card or you can check on line at the ISA website, www.isa-arbor.com to see if they are listed. As an organization, one of the missions of the ISA, as well as the TCIA (Tree Care Industry of America) is to promote the highest standards in arboriculture and to inform the public of the benefits of hiring trained certified arborists. Just remember- you get what you pay for, lower prices usually mean lower quality work and a greater potential for damage to not only the trees that are being pruned, but also to any structures that are around those trees.
As far as changes in the laws regulating pesticide applications, there has been one major change and one that is in the works. The major change is that the DEC and Bayer have agreed to limit the use of Imidaclorprid, the active ingredient in Merit and several other grub controls. Imidacloprid has been reclassified as a restricted use pesticide, and all homeowner uses have been pulled from the market in Nassau County, Suffolk County, Queens and Kings County (Brooklyn). The reason for doing this is that for the past few years trace amounts of Imidacloprid have been showing up in the ground water testing sites that the EPA and the DEC maintain on Long Island. At this point, the amounts are well below the mutually agreed upon threshold limits, but the DEC does not want to take any chances that if left unchecked, we could be facing a serious problem in the future. To this end, the industry has come together with the DEC to limit our uses of this material, and to strictly monitor our own uses to help to minimize the ecological impact that it can have.
The other change that is in the works, is a bill introduced by Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneider man (R- Montauk) limiting the use of what is termed in the bill "certain toxic chemicals by unlicensed applicators" on landscapes. The bill started out as a ban on all aesthetic uses for pesticides in Suffolk County, but has evolved into targeting certain classes of chemicals such as cholinesterase inhibitors. The purpose of this bill is to protect the drinking water aquifer and the general health of the inhabitants of Suffolk County. The biggest impact that I can see will be to the do-it-yourself homeowner. This bill, if enacted into law, would effectively remove many of the chemical pesticides from your use. The only materials that would be left would be soaps, oils and the organic pesticides (although, there are some organic pesticides that can be harmful to humans).
On the lighter side, I would like to remind everyone that Arbor Day is April 29. You should start planning your festivities and tree plantings now so that everything will be ready.
If you have any questions, comments or would like some help setting up their Arbor Day celebration, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone at 631-691-238 or 631-466-2930.