A topical and contentious subject that is being widely discussed is the claim that leaf-blowers are fatal to insects and are causing an ‘insect Armageddon’. While it is true that leaf-blowers are harmful to insects, this urge to stop using them in aid of saving the planet is completely misplaced – it is not gardeners with leaf-blowers that are killing vital parts of our ecosystems, but rather other practices that are more prolific and substantial, like the farmers who are spraying orchards and crops to an inch of their lives with insecticide. This is the vital distinction between the damage caused by horticulture compared to intensive farming.
In 2004, it was calculated that the average apple orchard in the UK received 13 fungicide sprays, 5 plant growth regulator sprays, 5 insecticide sprays, 2 herbicide sprays and 1 urea spray, of which the main insecticide is in fact toxic to humans, not just insects. Professor Goulson, who is the author of The Garden Jungle said: “The main causes of decline include habitat loss and fragmentation, and the overuse of pesticides. Wild insects are routinely exposed to complex cocktails of toxins which can cause either death or disorientation and weakened immune and digestive systems.”
So, instead of zoning in on an infrequent practice such as leaf-blowing, our food industry is a major contributor to the decline in insect species. It isn’t just the farmers that are contributing to this decline, but to put it into perspective, a single flea treatment for dogs can kill up to 60 million honey bees and 60 partridges.
Even if leaf-blowers do harm our ecosystem, they definitely aren’t the most urgent area of concern when it comes to global warming. Despite using pesticides to kill off weeds and unwanted bugs, horticulture practices aim to produce flowers and plants, healthy grass and trees, which gives insects, butterflies and bees an environment that actively encourages their survival. So, it is not so much a question of denying the impact leaf blowers have on insects and our environment, but rather it being more urgent to control and change the ways and the extent that pesticides are used to give our ecosystem the opportunity to thrive.