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The first one is a common sight along just about any American street. Over the years, I’ve grown accustomed to these. As a kid, I knew enough to think, “poison, stay away.” As an adult and a longtime gardener, I look at the signs with annoyance and some disgust, but often just dismiss them from my mind.   But in recent years, as environmentally mindful policies prevail in places like Ontario to the north and homeowners struggle with the idea of giving up turfgrass entirely to the far west, it seems more ridiculous than ever that people would prize their velvet lawns enough to endanger living creatures and pollute groundwater. The water question is very real here in Buffalo, where runoff overflow from overly abundant rainy seasons threatens waterways, local swimming, and drinking water.

This particular sign was planted in the grass of a nearby pre-k/daycare center. Although it says “pesticide” I feel fairly certain it’s for weeds, and it’s probably also likely that a landscaping company did this automatically, as part of their “service,” and that the people who run this center are barely aware of what’s being done. We were asked if we wanted to have regular “treatments” when we moved into our house, but declined. As long as lawn services exist, the culture of regular treating and spraying is unlikely to go away.

Photo by Cheryl Jackson

This sign is a more recent phenomenon. At least it’s there. But it’s far too early to be implying neonicotinoids are safe because they’ve been “approved by the EPA.”  In fact, risk to pollinators seems likely, and they are still under assessment by the agency. (Lots of studies going on and lots of  reports—google away.) So, yeah, on the surface this sign is a public service, but it’s a bit misleading. And the link given no longer exists.

Posted by

Elizabeth Licata
on June 2, 2015 at 8:16 am, in the category Ministry of Controversy.


  1. Golf courses are routinely sprayed with herbicides and it is an occupational hazard for those who work there, according to epidemiological studies. Here in the San Francisco Bay Area, a common reason for spraying pesticides in our parks and open spaces is the futile attempt to eradicate non-native species. Some of these species are called “invasive,” although that word is used indiscriminately. When sweet peas and scabiosa are sprayed, we should assume that “invasive” is a word that has little meaning. Fruiting shrubs such as blackberries are sometimes sprayed. We hope that children will read the signs and avoid the hazard, but we know the birds can’t read the signs.

  2. I get so annoyed with people this time of year – my neighbor across the street does this every bloody week. The idiot service even sprays this crap on very windy days! The runoff is a huge problem, both on Lake Ontario and the Finger Lakes. Every summer without fail, the lakes (big and little) have regular algae blooms – and now, on some of the Finger Lakes, aquatic weeds are becoming a big problem because they get fertilized regularly. I just don’t understand this insane quest for the perfect lawn…..

  3. Margaret A. Condon is a published garden writer who is particularly interested in bringing wildlife into our gardens. The Crozet Gazette (Crozet, Albemarle County, VA) has just published a very interesting article by Ms. Condon about the value of non-native plants and the herbicides pointlessly being used to eradicate them. It’s a well-written article by a knowledgeable gardener: http://www.crozetgazette.com/2015/06/blue-ridge-naturalist-invasive-plants-invaluable-to-degraded-environment/

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