The Hungry Owl Project promotes the use of beneficial predators as a form of natural pest control - an alternative to toxic, chemical pesticides and rodenticides. These predators provide us with free natural ecoservices when we encourage their prescence by installing nesting boxes in appropriate habitat. Many gardeners already use small beneficial predators, such as lady beetles to eat aphids, or other insects that eat pest insects. Beneficial predators are but one tool in an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) system and work best in conjunction with other tools. In the case of rodent problems, beneficial predators, such as barn owls, work best in conjunction with sanitation, exclusion, and trapping.
Without natural predators, pest populations can increase unchecked. With beneficial predators, there will still be pests, but they will not over-populate and their numbers can be kept under control without poisoning other wildlife with pesticides. Natural predators that control rodent pests include hawks, owls, coyotes, and bobcats. Insectivorous birds such as blue birds and flycatchers help control insects, as do bats.
Predators are the keystone of a healthy ecosystem by keeping prey populations in balance. When predators are removed, prey over-populate resulting in too many animals for the system to support. This can be seen all over the United States with the high populations of deer that over-browse natural plants and our gardens. Many are killed on the roads by cars as they move around in search of more food. In forests and riparian areas they over-browse the lower levels of trees and consume ground plants removing habitat for other species and causing erosion damage to creeks. In Yellowstone National Park herbivores (elk, bison, deer) had so over grazed the riparian areas that birds were almost absent. With the reintroduction of their natural predator, the wolf, the streams and other riparian areas were no longer over-grazed and restored themselves back to healthy habitat.
Gaia Theory is "the concept that the earth behaves as if it were alive, regulating its climate and chemistry to accomodate its inhabitants." (Audubon Magazine, March-April 2007). "We are taking so much that [Gaia] is no longer able to sustain the familiar and comfortable world we have taken for granted." "Now it is changing to a state where we are no longer welcome. " James Lovelock, author: The Revenge of Gaia: Earth's Climate Crisis & the Fate of Humanity.
Nature gives us everything we need to sustain life, but we have broken the system. It's time to stop taking our world for granted. It's time to stop trying to subsume nature, reject nature, and destroy nature. We are nature. It's time to start respecting all the creatures that Gaia created in order to have a healthy planet. It's time to start working with the systesm instead of against it. Beneficial predators are a critical part of the system!
Ask the Bugman - non-toxic solutions to insect and rodent problems