Chemicals are routinely applied around residential landscapes to kill insect pests and troublesome weeds, but many are indiscriminate and devastate pollinators in the process.
Over the past 30-plus years, pollinator populations have crashed worldwide due to a variety of reasons, including pesticide and herbicide exposure, invasive pests and diseases, loss of habitat, loss of species and genetic diversity, and a changing climate, scientists say.
Pesticide contamination of lawns, gardens and waterways is widespread, and even at sub-lethal levels can impact pollinators’ foraging ability and hive productivity.
“Honeybees are not the most impacted of pollinators,” said Katie Buckley, pollinator coordinator with the Washington State Department of Agriculture. “Once-common butterfly and native bee species have become rare, with some on the verge of extinction.”
The rusty patched bumblebee, island marble butterfly, Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly and the familiar monarch butterfly were among those singled out by Buckley as greatly depleted.
Pesticides are over-applied by many backyard gardeners, said James Dill, a pest management specialist with University of Maine Extension.
“They don’t read the labels, or they eyeball the amounts,” Dill said. “Sometimes, if maybe an ounce is called for, they’ll use 2 ounces. They often will use a calendar spray schedule or just spray because they had a problem in the past.”
But well-informed gardeners can be a big help in reversing the pollinator declines, especially those caused by chemical poisoning.
“In general, the best defense is to avoid spraying plants that are in bloom, use pesticides that have a short half-life when possible, and use pesticides with low toxicity to bees and other beneficial insects,” Buckley said. “Whether as a farmer or a homeowner, it is critical to always read and follow the label.”
Clothianidin, dinotefuran, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam are highly toxic to honeybees by contact and ingestion, according to the Environmental Protection Agency’s toxicity classification scale for bees. Thiacloprid and acetamiprid are moderately toxic, the federal agency says.
If you keep bees, finding the right apiary location is an important way to reduce pesticide exposure.
“Keeping colonies as far away from commercial agriculture as possible (4 to 5 miles) is the safest,” Dill said. “Drive around your area where you intend to keep hives and get the lay of the land so you know what you are dealing with. If you have a large, pesticide-free foraging area with diverse flowering plants nearby, that would be ideal.”
Supplying honeybees with uncontaminated water is also an effective deterrent, said Kevin Jensen, a pesticide management compliance investigator with the Washington State Department of Agriculture.
“If the bees do not have a water source in the apiary, they will be forced to look for water elsewhere during the hot months,” Jensen said. “This can result in bees being attracted to an area that is being sprayed, even though that area may not have flowers blooming in it.”
Even pesticides allowed for use in organic agriculture can harm bees and other beneficial insects like flies, beetles, moths and wasps, entomologists say.
“Homeowners should avoid using pesticides in backyards and instead use nontoxic methods such as soapy water to get rid of pests such as aphids,” said Ramesh Sagili, an associate professor-apiculture with Oregon State University.
Most drivers get their cars treated because they see bed bugs, get a complaint, or are just taking precautions after a ride an exterminator said.
DALLAS, Texas — A Dallas-based pest exterminator tells WFAA that he treats up to 10 rideshare vehicles per week for bed bugs, a mode of transportation that thousands turn to weekly to get around the metro.
Bed bugs have not been a great selling point for the DFW area.
Per Orkin in 2019, Dallas-Fort Worth ranked No. 10 on its list of “Top 50 Bed Bug Cities.”
Baltimore ranked number one.
In a Terminix ranking last year, Dallas-Fort Worth was ranked third.
For Don Brooks, owner of Doffdon Pest Control, bed bugs are his life. He travels daily around the metro to rid the nuisance insects (that multiply fast) from both homes and vehicles.
“Quite frankly, they’re not racist at all and they don’t care about how much money you have,” Brooks said. “They’re bloodsuckers.”
Don Brooks talks with WFAA about clearing cars of bed bugs.
Brooks’ has a unique mobile business, one that focuses on burning out bed bugs with high heat.
He pulls around heating equipment on a trailer that can heat homes up to 150°F.
Hoses run into the home and Brooks controls the temperature from the trailer.
He also puts up a tent and heats it to the same temperature to treat cars that possibly have bed bugs, and that’s where Brooks has been seeing an interesting trend.
Brooks told WFAA that he’s seeing more and more rideshare drivers.
“I probably do five to 10 rideshare cars per week,” Brooks said.
“Drivers either see bed bugs, someone complained, or they were suspicious of a customer and just want to make sure.”
Yeah, rideshare vehicles and bed bugs.
That combo is probably one that some haven’t thought about when hailing for a ride on their phone.
But it isn’t an outlandish concept when you think about how many customers rideshare drivers pick up each day.
“It’s highly likely they can crawl off of someone,” Brooks said.
In fact, the insurance company Netquote put a small study last year that said rideshare vehicles were 35,000 times more germy than a toilet seat.
One Los Angeles law firm even represents people who may have been bitten by a bed bug in a rideshare vehicle or had an infestation in their home as a result of booking a rideshare trip.
Brooks said drivers usually leave their cars in the tent for a few hours for $250 to get rid of any bed bug threats.
They can have their car sprayed with a liquid pesticide for a cheaper price.
“I can spray a car in 15 minutes,” Brooks said. “I usually do the backseat, the crevices, and the carpet on the floor.”
Heat hoses run from Brooks’ trailer and into a tour bus to raise the temperature and kill any possible insects.
WFAA reached out to three other pest control services in the metro, and two said they use high heat to get bed bugs out of cars.
However, neither business could recount knowing that a customer was a rideshare driver.
Brooks’ revelation isn’t meant to scare anyone, he even said it wouldn’t stop him from booking a ride.
But he did say to be wary of any cars that weren’t clean, something that rideshare drivers are supposed to be on top of.
“If you feel suspicious, just throw your clothes in the dryer for 50 minutes on high heat,” Brooks said. “Then it’s best to hop in the shower.”
State warns property manager over pesticide after bedbugs found in home
WMC 5 Action News | By Kelli Cook|February 12, 2020
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) – A bed bug infestation soon turned into a much bigger health concern for the woman renting a midtown home. State inspectors say her property manager improperly sprayed pesticide hoping to get rid of the problem.
Eva Woywod moved into her midtown home a couple of days before Christmas in 2018.
“The history. I’m drawn to historic places. It’s a beautiful home,” said Woywod.
She moved to Memphis from Wisconsin to be closer to her son but she was unknowingly moving closer to some unwanted guests.
“The next morning my son woke up covered in bites, just bites all over his body,” said Woywod.
Bed bugs were found all over her son’s bedroom wall.
“They attack at night. They literally attack. It’s like an army of bugs coming at you at night,” said Woywod.
Woywod spent months asking her property manager Bernard Evans to hire an exterminator. Bed bugs are incredibly difficult to get rid of. According to the Centers for Disease Control, bed bugs are tiny and excellent at hiding. They can go months without feeding and only come out when an appropriate host is available.
Waywod says she spent more than nine months in her home before her property manager offered to come fix the problem, but instead of hiring a professional he decided to do it himself.
“He left puddles down the hallway. He saturated our furniture with it. My furniture got ruined,” said Woywod.
As Woywod suspected, her property manager shouldn’t have been spraying her home in the first place.
“Pesticides are regulated by state law. It by nature is named a pesticide. It means it’s designed to kill something and if used improperly it can cause a lot of damage,” said Jerry Seabolt with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture Pesticide Department.
Seabolt says state law only allows certified, licensed professionals to use those types of chemicals.
“The appropriate way to take care of a bedbug issue is to call a professional,” said Seabolt.
Bernard Evans of First Choice Properties was issued a warning last November for violation of the Pesticides Act of 1978. If he does it again, he could face criminal charges.
Pesticide use is taken seriously because Seabolt says improper use of pesticides can cause skin burns and if ingested can damage the kidney, liver and lungs.
“Well yeah, that kind of kicked him in the butt. He got a real exterminator,” said Woywod.
Woywod says her home is now bed bug-free but hopes other renters learn from what she calls a nightmare. She says it’s also important to know who actually owns your rental, not just the property manager.
“It is extremely important because like in this situation the middle man wasn’t communicating and doing his job,” said Woywod.
Tuesday afternoon we went by the property manager’s home. He did not want to be on camera but said he is no longer managing that property.
It’s unclear at this time if he manages any other properties in the city.
The State Department of Agriculture tells WMC Action News 5 that they will follow-up with Evans within the next six months.
JEFFERSON CITY — Two separate reports of bed bugs Wednesday at the Harry S. Truman State Office Building in Jefferson City were enough to close off two sections of the second floor.
The first report came from a manager who discovered the pests in her home a couple of weeks ago. She contacted Missouri Facilities Management Design and Construction to make them aware of the situation and to let them know she had taken care of the problem at her house. FMDC set bed bug monitors in the office and did a detailed vacuuming of the space.
Six bed bugs were recently found in a separate instance in the same space around office suites 270 and 280. Pest control dogs inspected the area today and found an additional three bed bugs.
A pest control company will be in the office over the next several days to perform a steam kill and treat the carpets.
According to the University of Minnesota, steamers are largely effective at killing bed bugs. Steamers can heat carpeting to around 180 degrees and penetrate up to 3/4 of an inch deep into carpeting.
A spokesperson for the Truman building said they’re hopeful the closed-off sections will be open sometime early next week.
While bed bugs are more prevalent in summer months, they are an indoor pest and won’t die off in the winter like others might.
The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services has guidelines for identifying and removing the pests should they appear in a person’s home.
According to the health department, bed bugs go through six stages of development throughout their life, all of which can be seen with the naked eye. Before a bed bug can grow to the next stage of its life cycle, they have to feed. That’s when they bite humans, as they get their nutrients exclusively from blood.
The department advises to clean and declutter your living space to help make the bugs more visible. Vacuuming regularly and doing laundry at a high heat will help kill any bugs that have found their way into carpeting and onto clothing.
Special casings are also available to help prevent the pest from reaching bedding.
If bugs are found, the department advises catching several in a plastic bag or containers without crushing them and to call a pest control agency. This will allow a professional to identify the pest for certain and develop the best removal solution.
Asheville Citizen Times | by Brian Gordon and Joel Burgess | Aug. 29, 2019
An apartment complex for the city’s low-income and disabled seniors is struggling with a bedbug infestation.
About 50 of the 248 units at the Asheville Terrace public housing development have been infested with bedbugs in recent weeks, according to the Asheville Housing Authority. This infestation represents a growing prevalence of bedbugs infestations across public housing in Asheville.
“Bedbugs have become something we deal with on a regular basis, all around our properties,” said David Nash, executive director at the Asheville Housing Authority. “It’s a trend.”
Asheville Terrace, off Tunnel Road, is designed specifically for tenants age 55 and older. Pest control costs at Asheville Terrace, which includes bedbug exterminations, have risen from nearly $14,000 in 2016 to over $30,000 last year. So far in 2019, the housing authority has dedicated $27,815 to pest control at the development.
“We have a full-time staff member dedicated to it,” Nash said. The housing authority contracts with Orkin Pest and Termite Control to handle bedbug situations.
While bedbugs are gently inserted into night-time nursery rhymes, infestations are serious matters.
The tiny, round insects sustain themselves on the blood of humans and animals. They seek out crevices that provide easy access to their food source, and their bites leave red marks on exposed skin. According to WebMD, female bedbugs can lay hundreds of eggs over a lifespan.
Nash said bedbugs are often carried into units on used furniture. Tenants with impacted apartments must exit the room as spray is applied. Infested clothes must be washed, and any furniture exposed to bedbugs must be thrown away. Tenants are not financially compensated for any furniture lost to bedbugs, including any chairs or beds with special features for disabled tenants.
The housing authority provides tenants tips on how to avoid bringing bedbugs into apartments after each infestation, but not before.
Several tenants at Asheville Terrace expressed concern about voicing their complaints over bedbugs or other facility issues, saying they feared eviction. Asheville Terrace is categorized as a project-based property, meaning the public voucher that subsidizes rent stays with the apartment if a tenant were to leave. To relocate to another public housing development, tenants would have to reapply and be put on a waiting list. The main waiting list for the housing authority has 1,518 applicants.
Nash said tenants are not evicted for voicing concerns. “Speaking with the press is not a lease violation,” Nash stated in an email. “They just need to be sure they pay their rent and comply with the other terms of their lease.”
After playing around a popular Upstate creek on the Laurens County/Newberry County line, two yellow Labs fell ill and die.
WIS News 10 | By Renee Wunderlich|August 30, 2019
WHITMIRE, S.C. (WYFF) -Deanne Wishert tells WYFF News 4 that, on Aug. 4, her two yellow Labrador retrievers, Max and Ellie, started shaking and foaming at the mouth after playing around Duncan creek off Little North Carolina Road, on the Lauren’s County/Newberry County line.
“They went from healthy to dead in 30 minutes,” said Wishert.
Max died on the way to the vet, and Ellie had to be put down.
A Laurens County sheriff’s deputy went to the scene on the 14th, and noted in their report that the water was ‘stagnant and green.’
At first, Wishert wondered if blue-green algae was to blame, but the toxicology report shows carbamate and carbofuran — insecticides that can be deadly to pups and people. “There’s someone here every day,” said Wishert “The children come down here and swim. And then would swim with my dogs down here.”
Wishert is hoping someone will come forward, or that investigators will figure out why this poison was in an area where dogs and children play.
“Right now, I can’t tell you who did this, but I would hate for this to happen to somebody else!” she said.
Newberry County sheriff Lee Foster tells WYFF News 4 that his office spoke with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources on this matter, and that it is not uncommon for farmers or deer hunters to bait coyotes during this time of year.
Sheriff Foster tells WYFF News his office has no evidence, but it is reasonable to believe that the dogs could have accidentally come across poison meant for a coyote.
Both Newberry County and Laurens County sheriff’s offices do not have suspects at this time.
There is a $1,000 reward for any information leading to an arrest.
Clemson Regulatory Services Criminal Investigative Unit oversees the sale, use and distribution of pesticides, as well as their illegal misuse within the state of South Carolina.
A day after this story aired on WYFF News 4, deputy director Mike Weyman told reporter Renée Wunderlich that the agency has opened up a parallel criminal investigation.
Weyman said that this particular product is an extremely toxic agricultural pesticide. He said, had it been in the water, any fish, bugs or other living things would have been killed.
He told Wunderlich that there is reason to believe the pesticide that killed Max and Ellie was put there on purpose – perhaps as a bait for a predator like a coyote or a fox – but that that the investigation is just beginning.
Weyman said this pesticide is highly regulated, and that placing it in an area like this without the proper permission is a both a state and federal violation of the law.
The person or persons responsible for this crime could face both state and federal charges.
“They put me in a shower to get all the chemicals off me,” she reported. “I kept falling down. I wanted to vomit, but I couldn’t, my body got weaker…I felt like my throat was awful, as if it were cut on the inside.”
A new study that looks at the working conditions of ornamental plant nursery workers in South Miami-Dade found that low wages, harmful exposure to pesticides and inadequate access to drinking water and shade are among the top complaints from workers in the industry.
Miami-Dade County is home to more than 1,500 ornamental nurseries that provide flowering plants, shrubs and trees used for commercial and residential landscaping projects. WeCount, a farmer workers rights group in Homestead, surveyed 300 workers in a workforce largely dominated by immigrant women for the study called “The Human Landscape.”
Workers, largely from Mexico, Guatemala and El Salvador, complete a range of jobs such as potting plants, weeding, driving tractors, digging up trees, loading pallets and customer assitance. They provide a portrait of working long hours outside in intense heat with little reprieve and low pay.
Nearly 70 percent said they experienced heat related illnesses including fainting and headaches due to a lack of shade breaks.
“Folks are under pressure to work fast. They have their order they have to get out and so they don’t want them to take breaks, they want them to produce and that’s that’s a big issue,” said Jonathan Fried, executive director of WeCount.
Miami-Dade recently recorded record-breaking heat and as it gets hotter because of climate change, Fried says farm workers are on the frontline of serious health risks with little protections.
The study also found many workers did not receive proper training to handle pesticides as required by law and industry regulations.
Of the workers surveyed who used pesticides for work, 64 percent said they did not receive any safety training.
Miguel Bernal, a nursery plant worker and member of WeCount, told WLRN when he worked with pesticides, his employer instructed him to lie and say he had proper training if an inspector visited the nursery.
“She told me to spray, but to not tell them that she told me to do it,” he said.
Other workers who didn’t handle pesticides said they were still exposed because spraying would happen in close proximity to where they were working, according to the surveys. Sixty two percent of the workers reported symptoms of pesticide exposure—dizziness, vomiting and skin rashes.
Nora, one of the women who responded to the survey, described symptoms of pesticide poisoning after another worker was allowed to spray near where she and several other people were working. “He had practically sprayed it in our faces,” she said. Nora ended up in the hospital shortly after.
“They put me in a shower to get all the chemicals off me,” she reported. “I kept falling down. I wanted to vomit, but I couldn’t, my body got weaker…I felt like my throat was awful, as if it were cut on the inside.”
Miami-Dade County is consistently ranked as one of the most unaffordable metro areas in the country when it comes to housing. That reality is especially stark for farmwokers. According to the people surveyed, most earn the Florida minimum wage of $8.05 or slightly above.
A smaller percentage of workers reported earning less than minimum wage.
As is the case in most other industries, there is a pay gap for women. On average women earn 36 cents less than men. Workers also reported a pay gap for speakers of indigenous Mayan languages. Speakers of Mayan languages earned 34 cents less on average than Spanish and English speakers.
And across the industry, workers reported little room for economic advancement. Workers with more than 15 years of experience working in South Dade ornamental plant nurseries earned about 45 cents more than someone with one year of experience, according to the study.
WLRN intern Aaron Sanchez-Guerra contributed to this report.
Orkin declared Baltimore the number one bed bug infested city in the country in January.
It was the second year in a row that Baltimore topped the list of the Top 50 “Bed Bug Cities” in the United States.
“The number of bed bug infestations in the United States is still rising. They continue to invade our homes and businesses on a regular basis because they are not seasonal pests, and only need blood to survive,” Dr. Tim Husen, an entomologist who works for Orkin, one of the nation’s leading pest control companies, said in a statement released by the company that accompanied the announcement that Baltimore was once again the bed bug capital of the United States.
“The list is based on treatment data from the metro areas where Orkin performed the most bed bug treatments from December 1, 2016 – November 30, 2017,” the Orkin statement said.
The Top Ten cities for bed bug infestation for this one year period were:
New York City
San Francisco-San Jose-Oakland
Baltimore was also in Orkin’s list of Top Ten “Rattiest Cities” announced in 2018, along with Washington, D.C., Chicago, Los Angeles, Detroit, and New York City.
All six of these pest “double-threat” Top Ten cities are currently run by Democrats, as Breitbart News reported earlier.
Two cities on Orkin’s Top Ten list of “Bed Bug Cities” ranked just below the Top Ten “Rattiest Cities.”
Columbus, Ohio, fifth on the “Bed Bug Cities” list, was the 25th “Rattiest City.”
Cincinnati, sixth on the “Bed Bug Cities” list, was the 20th “Rattiest City.”
One metropolitan area–Dallas-Fort Worth–was ranked tenth on the “Bed Bug Cities” list and 12th on the “Rattiest Cities” list.
The San Francisco-San Jose-Oakland metropolitan area was ninth on the “Bed Bug Cities” list, while the city of San Francisco, part of that metropolitan area, was the 5th “Rattiest City.”
“Bed bugs cannot be completely prevented so early detection is critical,” Orkin advised in its statement.
Bed bugs are always in motion. They travel from place to place with ease, including luggage, clothing and other belongings. In addition to single family homes, bed bugs can be found in apartments, hotels, hospitals and public places like daycare centers, public transit, schools and offices.
According to a 2015 “Bugs without Borders Survey” by the National Pest Management Association, the top three places where pest professionals report finding bed bugs are apartments/condominiums (95 percent), single-family homes (93 percent) and hotels/motels (75 percent).
Orkin noted that “Bed bugs are capable of rapid population growth with an adult female laying two to five eggs per day (up to 500 in her lifetime), often making treatment challenging.”
Americans don’t want these jobs, or can’t do them—so nearly a quarter of a million guest workers do them instead.
by John Washington | July 29, 2019
(Krystal Quiles) Hudson Valley, New York
In the late 19th century, Polish and Volga German immigrants drained the muck out of this valley to reveal the residue of an ancient glacial lake—dirt so dark and fertile it resembles potting soil. Today, the farms that blanket the valley—known as the Black Dirt Region—brandish their organic or farm-to-table credentials and ship onion, radish, romaine, cilantro, as well as sod and poppy, to New York City restaurants and farmer’s markets, among other places. Most of the workers here, the ones bending over this black dirt with harvesting knives and hoes, now call the farms “los fields.”
I spent a recent late spring afternoon visiting various farms with Cristian Ávila, of the Workers Justice Center of New York, who drives around Hudson Valley fields evangelizing workers’ rights, work-shopping safety protocols, and giving and gaining respect to guest workers. He told me, for example, of occasionally hearing workers complain of allergies when they see rashes on their skin, and he has to tell them they’re actually suffering from pesticide poisoning. The men we met that day—they were all men—were polite, welcoming, and expressed few complaints—at least initially. After sitting and chatting for a while in their borderline-squalid flophouse trailers, details began to emerge: non-reimbursements for travel to the US-Mexico border, limited or no access to a vehicle to make purchases of food and other necessities, and intensely long hours, sometimes toiling over 90 hours a week.
These men are here as guest workers, part of a massive labor program that brings nearly a quarter-million agricultural guest workers—the majority from Mexico and Central America—to the United States to do the jobs Americans aren’t doing, and seem increasingly unwilling to do. These workers come to toil and sweat on American farms for, typically, a few months (though workers can be contracted for up to three years) before being ushered back to their country of origin. The H-2 guest worker system—H-2A visas for agricultural workers, H-2B visas for service sectors such as landscaping, hospitality, and fishing, which will bring an additional 96,000 workers into the country this year—puts temporary workers in jobs when employers need them most, while, at the same time, blocking imported workers from becoming part of the permanent social fabric of this country.
The set up squeezes guest workers nearly dry, and then disposes them back across the border. Farmworker Justice calls the program an “exploitative model of temporary indentured workers,” and some guest workers, especially if they have to pay high recruiter fees to connect with an employer, actually go home in debt. Contracts between employers and workers stipulate a variety of work expectations and conditions, but reports, including the Southern Poverty Law Center’s exposé, “Close to Slavery,” enumerate a litany of abuses: unpaid wages, dangerous—even deadly—working conditions, squalid living quarters, lack of medical benefits for on-the-job injuries, and being “held virtually captive by employers.”
Ávila and I wound along the valley’s picturesque roads—Celery Avenue, Pumpkin Swamp Road, Jessup Switch—that ran along and over the Wallkill River and through the vast plots of vegetables. As the sun was setting, we humped down a rutted dirt path through a cemetery of rusting, museum-worthy fire trucks—the owner is a collector—to a long, hastily built concrete structure that was temporary home to 25 men. Their knee-stained work pants and long-sleeve shirts were hung out to dry behind the trailer; the sunset was slashing shadows over the crop lines of onions; and a nonchalant woodchuck wobbled up and sniffed at a side door. A dozen men had circled around Ávila to chat about work conditions.
After a while we went inside the kitchen and I met Omar, a genial, soft-spoken Mexican man chopping summer squash while a pot of chicken bubbled on the stove. Omar also had a huge wok of nopales that were starting to soften next to the chicken. Like all the kitchens I saw that day in guest worker trailers, it was bare, not very clean, and young men (it was the end of the day, and they were freshly showered and smelling of cheap body wash) were constantly flitting in and out. Omar was wearing silver athletic shorts, a tan T-shirt, leather sandals worn to a shine, and an old Orioles baseball cap. He chewed gum very slowly. There was dirt under his fingernails.
* * *
OMAR, 42 YEARS OLD
Okay, my name is Omar García García. I’m 42 years old. I’m from Michoacán, from a ranch named El Gigante, which is actually a small village. There are maybe 1,500 to 1,700 people who live there, and… well, that’s where I’m from. I have three kids. They are all in Mexico, in Michoacán. My oldest son is 18, he’s about to enter into university. My daughter is about to start high school, and my youngest is about start elementary school. They live with my wife and my mother-in-law.
I’m one of those people, you know, I’m never happier than when I’m in the fields. It’s the best place for me. I like cities, but just to visit. I’m not used to them. When I was a little boy I first started working in the fields with my grandfather. Back then, working with him, I would just help out in the rainy season, with the corn. Weeding, putting down fertilizer, all that. And then when I grew up I did a little more, I’d work with the neighbors. Clearing a parcel, helping with the harvests. Some people in El Gigante have land, and they pay for help, for workers. And we plant everything. Or almost everything. We don’t have kale or bok choy or tatsoi there. Or green peppers. There we grow the chile serrano and jalapeños. We don’t have arugula, either. But we have everything else, pretty much.
What I earn here in a day though, that’s what I can get in Mexico in a few weeks or more.
The first time I came as a guest worker, in 2005, it was really hard. Because you aren’t where you were born, where you’re used to living. And, you know, it’s hard because even if the work seems simple, if you haven’t done it before, it’s more complicated. The hard part was doing work that I thought was going to be easier, but you do it different here. Even if you’re used to it, with just a little difference, it makes it more complicated. Back in Michoacán we only had one type of green bean, and we harvested when it was still tender, but here, no, you have different kinds. You have to cut the big ones when they’re not too tender and not too hard, so the machine can husk them. In Mexico, we harvest only when the bean is really dry, when it’s about to open out of the pod, but it’s different here. And bunches of kale, you have to tie them up, so you have to cut them with the knife and then tie them up. I’d lived my whole life in the fields, but everything was different in the US.
The hardest part was just getting used to being so far from my home. Being outside of my country. I wasn’t used to it. I wanted to go back to Mexico. I really wanted to go back, and I asked myself, What am I doing here? But if I go, what do I go back to? Because it was expensive to come. I had this debt. I don’t remember how much, maybe 6,000 pesos. The bus to Monterrey, the hotel, the food. We had to wait in the hotel for a while, two days I think, while we were giving our information and doing the interview. I was thinking, I want to go back. But back to what? I had rent, had to pay for electricity, gas. I would have had to find work again, figure out how to get to work.
So I didn’t know what to do. I thought, Okay, I’m already here. I gotta keep going. If the other workers can do it, I can do it, because I have two hands like they have. I can use them, just like they can. I don’t think the others came and already knew everything. They had to learn, too. So if you learn, you move up, you learn to work like the others.
After that first season in Florida, I was able to fix up my bathroom back in Michoacán. That first trip, my earnings were mostly the experience. It was worth it, because it pushed me. I was able to save a little, not much. Everything you don’t have, you suffer a little bit for. We just had a small tub, and we bathed with a bowl. Our house had two windows and a door. The door was just a curtain. And the windows had plastic bags so the wind wouldn’t come in. But after that first year, I put a door in, put two windows in. Put a solar heater in. And ever since, I’m still fixing up the house. And I said to myself, Okay, I have two kids who are growing up, already in school, and then the youngest one. And I thought, Okay, I can’t stay here. If I can’t provide enough for my kids. Because I don’t want them to live like me. I couldn’t provide for my family, not by staying home.
My wife never said anything, but, I mean, when someone was selling a piece of land, and we didn’t have any money to buy any land, you notice. Or when my son says that he wants a car, or wants something smaller, anything, and working in the fields I couldn’t buy it for him… You have to give priority to food, shoes, clothes, education. Your family needs to eat. To go to the doctor. The basic things.
It’s not shameful to work in the fields. You’ll be able to eat. But it’s hard. So [in 2014, nine years after his first H-2A experience, in 2005] I told myself, told my wife, I’m going to go back to the US. This, 2019, is now my fourth year in New York, working for the same boss. I made about $5,000 that second trip.
Strawberry picking is the hardest. Even in Mexico you work all day, and you have to bend down all day, but not quite all day, because in Mexico it’s different. You stand up, you chat for a minute. You sit down for a minute. I don’t know, it’s calmer. But here, no. When they’re paying you by the hour, they’re paying for those hours. And they want you to work. They don’t want to see you standing. If the work is hunched over, they want you hunched over. If the work is standing up, they want you standing. If they want you kneeling, they want you kneeling and working. And they ask you, Why are you standing? I mean, if you just stand up for a bit to stretch or to drink water, it’s okay, but if you’re standing there for a bit—I mean it’s logical—they’re like, Hurry up. Because I’m paying you. And I understand. I’d do the same.
We usually work six days a week here. We work 10 to 12 hours a day, sometimes more. It depends on what work there is. Sometimes we’re doing 14 or 16 hour days. And sometimes we work Sundays. They pay us by the hour when we’re packaging for the market. They pay us by the box for cilantro, parsley, beets. If you’re only working three hours or so, you make more if you’re working by the box. But the longer you work, the more tired you get, and you start to slow down. It doesn’t go down that much, but you can’t fill the same number of boxes at two or three in the afternoon—in the heat, when you’re tired—that you were filling at six in the morning. I’m making now about $500, $400, sometimes $300 a week. Later in the season maybe $700, $800, even $900 a week. And we work Sundays later in the season.
We keep track of our own hours. They give us little sheets that we mark down hours on, from Friday to Thursday. The week starts on Friday and it’s over on Thursday. And you mark down when you started, when you finished, your lunch. They pay us on Saturday. There’s not time to do anything else but work. Sometimes you’re only sleeping four or five hours a night. Right now we have a little more free time, because it’s early in the season. We’re getting off at five or six, and we don’t go in until seven tomorrow morning. So we’ll wake up at six, drink a little coffee, eat something, and then go to work.
But sometimes when we’re coming back at eight or even nine, there’s not really time to do anything. We eat some cookies maybe. A juice, and then fill up our lunchboxes with some crackers, a juice, a soda, whatever we have, for the next day.
In this house there are 25 people. We all know each other. We get along. We all chat. Nobody gets out of hand, nobody looks down at other people. We walk a little when we have downtime, or talk to our families. Or just sit around. There’s no TV, but we listen to music, or just talk. We play soccer sometimes, but we don’t always have enough energy. I talk to my family every day. With these phones, it’s easy. I talk to my wife for twenty or thirty minutes a day, with my kids, too. Or we send messages to each other.
I’ll be honest with you, I don’t feel good here. I’m too far from my family. I’m too far from the place where I was born, where I grew up. I lived all my life there, and now I come here, I come because I want my kids to study. In Mexico, I wouldn’t be able to do that. It would even be hard to send my kids to high school. But I can do it working here. God willing, I’m going to send all three of my kids to college. My son, he’s not sure yet what he wants to study. Maybe industrial processing. I don’t know much about that field. But maybe he’ll study agricultural engineering. I know more about that. But there’s not much demand for that where we live. My son likes working in the fields as well. He’s like me, but in the end, I told him he needs to think hard about it, because it’s his future. I tell him, Look, I don’t know about all these things, but look around you, look around at what you can do. Look at what I have to do. If I had the chance, I’d think hard about another line of work.
I think the United States is really beautiful. It has so much. It has a lot that Mexico doesn’t have, but I’ll be honest, I wouldn’t want to move here. Not me. My rancho is my rancho, and I’ve thought a lot about it, and I tell my wife, I don’t come here because I want to. I don’t come here because I don’t want to be with you. I come to give you something better. Something better, something we can’t get there.
I’ll wake up tomorrow at six. I’ll drink a coffee, maybe a shake. The driver, or maybe the boss, will take us to los fields. I don’t know, maybe to pick radishes, or, who knows, we won’t know until tomorrow. We’ll probably be packing veggies for the Saturday market [it’s Thursday night when we’re speaking]. We’ll cut lettuce, romaine and Boston, red and green. We cut the hearts and put twelve in a box, or depends on what brand we’re working for, and then we cut the cilantro, also for the market. Depends on what box, but usually 24 bunches per box. Maybe we’ll finish packing for the market by noon, or maybe earlier, and then we’ll get together, and we’ll go to some other fields, for the radishes, or the kale. The radishes you pull out, seven or eight at a time, then wrap them with a band. It’s not too hard. The earth here is really soft. Dark and soft. So you don’t need to really tug too hard. What’s difficult is to be doing it for so long. You don’t get like crazy tired, but you get tired.
I don’t know why Americans don’t do this kind of work. I don’t understand why. Maybe it’s the pay, or the work itself. Maybe it’s cheap seeming. There are a lot of reasons. I don’t know which it is. Or maybe it’s because, how can I put it, we’re the people who accept this kind of work because we’re used to hard work. And maybe Americans try to find ways not to do this kind of work. Not this kind of hard work. But I don’t know what the exact reason is. There may be multiple reasons. There are a lot of Americans who, okay, they do work on the tractors, or weed a little, but they don’t harvest. A lot of them just give orders.
My interest is just to come to this country, do the work, and then leave it. That’s all. My work is what interests me. That’s all I do here. My family tells me they miss me. But then I think about coming home with nothing, without having food to eat… I like the US, I like it a lot. But this isn’t where my life is. All there is here for me is working and sleeping. In Mexico it’s different. You can have more free days, you can be with your family.
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — If you find yourself sipping a cold brew with a piece of watermelon in your hand this summer, you can thank the bees for making that snack possible.
Bees pollinate almost three-quarters of the 100 crop species that provide 90 percent of the world’s food supply, say advocates working on a campaign to protect bees from insecticides.
Last week, the grassroots group Environment North Carolina delivered a petition with 13,452 signatures to Gov. Roy Cooper’s office, calling for a consumer ban on the sale and use of neonicotinoids (neonics) pesticides. Advocates gathered in downtown Raleigh, not far from regional headquarters for Syngenta and other businesses like Bayer and Dow Chemical that manufacture neonics and say their products are safe when applied according to label directions.
Every winter for the past 12 years, about 30 percent of commercial honeybee hives in the United States have collapsed because of diseases, parasites, poor nutrition, pesticides and other issues, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Services has said.
While pesticides aren’t the only cause, they contribute to the problem, according to the department, which recommends gardeners use pesticides sparingly or not at all.
Drew Ball, state director of Environment North Carolina, believes banning sales to consumers in the state would be a step in the right direction toward bigger bans.
Maryland and Connecticut have banned the sale of neonics to consumers, said state Rep. Pricey Harrison. The European Union has banned neonics and Canada is phasing them out.
Harrison is one of the sponsors of House Bill 559, also known as the Pollinator Protection Act. The bill, whose primary sponsors also include Reps. Chuck McGrady, John Ager and Mitchell Setzer, stalled in committee this spring.
Concerns about agricultural pesticides are not new, said Hannah Burrack, professor of entomology at N.C. State University. People disagree because there are positive and negative effects, so it’s a trade-off, she said.
“The thing that gets glossed over in the discussions of banning neonics is that the pests themselves aren’t going to go away in these farming systems,” said Burrack, who is also an extension specialist. “Something needs to be done to manage them, and that something might become a more toxic pesticide if this one is removed. That needs to be a part of the conversation.”
A Google search can yield numerous alternatives to insecticides, like using fabric covers to keep pests off crops. The Natural Resource Conservation Service suggests people who do use insecticides should choose products with less harmful ingredients and spray them on dry evenings after dark when bees are not active.
Neonicotinoids are classified as a “general pesticide” by the EPA, which means no training or licensing is required to use them.
Consumers, who may not know as much as farmers about the chemicals they are using, often over-apply neonics, at a time when non-farming regions have become increasingly important habitats for bees, said Libba Rollins, Environment North Carolina’s campaign lead.
“Private citizens aren’t typically aware of the impact this has on pollinator population,” Ball explained. “A lot of people are buying these over the counter without recognizing the effect.”
Environment North Carolina is seeking a consumer ban because “bees are dying at record rates,” Ball said. “Beekeepers report losing an average of 30 percent of all honeybee colonies each winter, roughly twice the loss considered sustainable. A recent study found that more than half of all (wild) bees are in decline, too.”
It is not clear if neonics are causing the decline in wild bees, Burrack said. “There is limited science available and it’s harder to research wild bees because they can’t be raised in captivity,” she said.
However, fewer wild bees could affect crop production. North Carolina is fourth in pumpkin production, seventh in cantaloupe, apple and tomato production, eighth in squash and watermelon production and ninth in cabbage production, and all of these crops require pollinators, including wild bees, Rollins said.
Bayer, Dow, Monsanto and Syngenta are some of the biggest producers of neonics and say they should not be blocked or banned.
“Neonicotinoids are rigorously tested before going to market to ensure they can be used safely and effectively while allowing bees and other pollinators to thrive,” Syngenta said a statement to The News & Observer. “The weight of scientific evidence clearly shows that bees and other pollinators can coexist safely with neonicotinoid insecticides when product labels are followed.”
Bayer agreed, adding that the potential exposure to bees by consumer application is far below levels that would cause concern.
“Distinguishing toxicity from risk is a routine activity performed by most of us, even if we’re unaware we’re doing so,” Bayer said in its statement. “For example, caffeine is more toxic than many pesticides, yet we drink it in coffee without fear because the levels are so low.”
In 2014, Home Depot, the world’s largest home improvement company, announced that it had stopped treating 80 percent of flowering plants with neonics and would completely stop using neonics in flowering plants by 2018.
Lowe’s Home Improvement announced in 2015 that it would phase out neonics after the EPA announced it would stop approving new uses of the pesticide.
While groups disagree about bans, insecticides like neonics are part of a larger discussion about how our food is grown, Burrack said.
“I believe the best solution is to use the whole suite of pest-management tools we have available to us,” she said. “We monitor insect populations and select the least disruptive treatment available to us which in some cases is chemical control or not chemical-based controls.”