I'm No Expert

Sunday threatened a storm, but didn't completely follow through. A drizzle here and there subsided in the late afternoon and early evening to reveal a split sky. You know, a split sky. When you look in one direction and the sun is especially bright - the way it shines brighter after rain has moved on - but if you are to turn your body directly around, in the other direction the sky is the darkest of dark greys. A good chunk of our crew spent some time in an orchard, picking Burgundy and Ginger Gold apples, beneath that split sky.

It would be a challenge for even the likes of Jim Cramer to deny calm's conquer in the orchard. The property is simply breathtaking. But then, for some, this orchard creates mass confusion, distaste, and is a huge turn off. I'm talking about Lepidopterans, of course. According to the Britannica Encyclopedia, the number of Lepidopteran species (butterflies and moths) "is second to only the order Coleoptera, the beetles." But, very few of the nearly 155,000 species in this order find sanctuary at Wilson's. There is good and bad news behind that fact. But don't worry, the bad news is not insecticides. I suppose that's the good news.

Wilson's uses pheromone disruption as their pest management.  The synthetic pheromone is sprayed above crops or orchards that are susceptible to Lepidoptera pests. Specifically - in an apple orchard - the yields can easily fall victim to larvae that are born to moths and butterflies. The use of pheromone disruption is said to be safe for the environment, but establishments using it cannot be certified organic because the substance has not made it onto the USDA's National List of Allowed Substances (for organic growers). This is because in some places it has been petitioned for further long-term human effects testing (in these places, there were plans to overhead douse an entire city). But, that's not how we test our potentially harmful chemicals. We test them on animals. That was successfully petitioned as well.

So, here's how it works: these pheromone disruptors are synthetically engineered and sprayed into the air to put off males of the species in question. The males would usually be attracted to the sexual pheromones coming from their female counterparts and would be able to track the source, but the pheromone disruption method - or mating disruption - confuses them or makes it impossible for them to find the females. If they can't find the females, they can't mate. If they can't mate...you get it.

Of several ways to do this, the adaptation method of mating disruption employs overexposure to a particular scent making that scent undetectable after some time. Sort of like when you come home and think, "Oh, I forgot to clean out the litter-box. Good god." But then, before your guests arrive that evening, you've forgotten and since disgustingly grown accustomed to the smell and can't figure why everyone is making the it-smells-like-cat-shit face.

So, with this pest management, species are put out of their natural habitats but the insects are not directly murdered. We all know that if a decline in mating occurs, so will the same trend in a population. Is this method endangering or causing extinction of species? Is that a step we are willing to take as an alternative to other ecologically devastating chemicals? If we answer yes to that question, do we know the consequences of losing yet another species at the hands of our industry? If only we could just offer higher education for our female Lepidoptera. Surely that would lower their population.

As a plus, this method of pest eradication does not leave residue on the fruits. Nationwide, store bought apples were worst in The Environmental Working Group's report this year of fruits and vegetables with remaining pesticide residue (48 different pesticides were found on the apples in the study). No matter your opinion on pheromone disruption, Wilson's certainly has an advantage to the typical "bad" apples.

I'd be surprised to hear of any herbicides being used at Wilson's because the plant diversity was quite apparent. But then again, I'm no expert. To help my case, here are some tiny wild flowers I spotted after picking my first apple.

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting read- thanks for getting me wheels turning before Sociology of the Environment.