August 18, 2000 Halifax Herald

Snails prove virtually indestructible, so will beatles

During a recent walk through Point Pleasant Park, I compared the effort various governmental authorities are making to eradicate the Brown Spruce Longhorn Beetle from the park with my efforts to eradicate an infestation of snails from our yard.

The comparison did not bode well for the success of their eradication program.

I'll start the process of justifying such a pessimistic conclusion by relating my war with the snails.

The first shot was fired after I acquired from a local department store some powder that was touted to be fatal for any sucking insect that partook of it. As I spread it around, I swear I could hear the tinkle of tiny cutlery as the intended victims joyfully anticipated feasting on it.

The dope failed miserly. However, it accomplished one thing; enough of the critters came forth to partake in the feast that I was able to collect a quarter of a litre of them.

I followed this up by early morning and late evening collections, which didn't seem to be accomplishing much. Each day, there appeared to be just as many snails as before.

This drove me back to the department store to review their stock of more potent remedies.

Early the next morning, I sprayed a bottle of "deadly" pesticide around the most infested areas. That evening, I collected hundreds more of the insects who seemed to be quite unaffected from the poison. Factually, they appeared to be rejuvenated by it. Since then, three more bottles of other types of "deadly" pesticides have been sprayed with the result being that now in the mornings and evenings, I only collect a few hundred or so snails.

To date, I've collected over two litres of them, which translates into several thousands. This all out effort to eradicate a destructive pest has been carried out on a 60 by 120 foot yard with limited success.

Now, lets examine why the Park's chances of success are even more limited than mine.

The large land area covered by the park harbours literally millions of places where the beetle can secret itself - dead trees, windfalls, rotting vegetation, tree stumps, etc. And, as opposed to the limitations of the snail, it can fly.

Thus, following the practice of flying species that have migrated before them, they probably have already flown to other locations. Logic dictates that the only chance that governments had to contain the beetle's spread was missed when they failed to do so at the container pier upon its arrival. The park in all probability has provided a gateway for the bugs to parts of North America compatible to their needs. As the old saying goes, "its futile to close the barn doors after the animals have all departed."

Responding to the arrival of the Park's unwanted immigrants, governments have adopted a reactive approach. Their main thrust is to cut and remove all trees the beetle may find tasty.

I doubt that cutting and removing infested and non-infested trees will have much effect upon containing the spread of the pest - even if it is followed up by dousing the park with pesticides.

In spite of my doubts, I don't object to the culling of the trees mentioned. However, I do wonder why park officials and other experts who have traversed the park for the past several years didn't become alarmed by the widespread dying off of so many trees before.

Even I, a non-expert in the field of forestry management, noticed years ago that there was something radically wrong because the devastation was becoming more apparent with each passing year.

In the long term, if a proactive approach is adopted towards the future management of the park, the tree removal, combined with other measures, will prove to be beneficial. The following are a few of the major steps that need to be taken to rejuvenate the park's eco-system and keep it fit.

First and foremost, there must be an acceptance by all that the park's vegetation is fragile and in need of protection from the ravages of humans and beasts.

To prevent the hard-packing of soil around the park's vegetation, the movement of people and dogs throughout the park needs to be severely restricted.

Dogs should be permitted to accompany owners on leash only and, excepting school children in relation to classroom work and others working on special projects, all users must be restricted to established pathways. Soil replenishment would get a major boost by spreading around recycled garbage compost. The park is a precious legacy to be left to our children. Letís hope that we have the collective will to pass on a park worth having!

NOW SOME FOOD for thought for those who are determined to see herbicides and pesticides banned. We owe much of our average 80-year-plus life spans to them. Without their use, the world would be unable to feed an ever-increasing population. How great is the danger posed? Farmers, who use both products extensively over lifetimes, live to the same average age as urban folks. The same can be said for the life expectancy of non-farm rural folks who live in close proximity to their heavy use.

Should we ban things because certain individuals are allergic to them? If the answer is yes, such things as peanuts, certain oils, chocolate, shellfish, and many other foods, also many beneficial non-edibles, would have to go.

Because we fail to seek out and cover all the pitfalls when striving to implement "improvements" far to often we create more problems than we solve. Banning pesticides and herbicides may be one such instance.

Daniel N. Paul


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