Kill the aphids; save the chickens.
April 17, 2012 2:44 PM   Subscribe

If I use Bayer Advantage on the trees in my front yard (horrible terrible aphid problems), will it harm the neighbor's chickens who often come scratch in our front yard?

As long as we've been in our house, our front trees (some sort of poplar?) have had problems with aphids. For years I tried beneficial bugs, since with 40' trees I'm not exactly going to spray the aphids off with water. Last year I used imidacloprid...and no more aphids. I realize that it's a potentially problematic chemical*, but otherwise our front yard is essentially uninhabitable from late June until mid-October.

Over the last few months, chickens belonging to one of our neighbors have come around our front yard. They're hella cute, and I don't mind cleaning up occasional chicken poop. But we don't have a fence, so if I apply pesticide again, I don't have any way to keep them out. And it's getting to when I absolutely have to do something to keep the aphids away.

Will the imidacloprid harm the chickens, or cause any problems with the eggs for our neighbors? Or should I wait until we can put up a fence, which may be in the next few weeks?

PLEASE, no lectures about the bees. I put off even trying this for almost a decade, and endured summer after summer of "honeydew" so thick that our driveway was sticky. My only other option is to cut down these tall beautiful trees.
posted by epersonae to Home & Garden (9 answers total)
Have you tried a natural solution? Random assorted tips...

You could also try buying some ladybugs and letting them loose in your garden.
posted by Strass at 3:03 PM on April 17, 2012

I'm a chicken owner. If I were your neighbor, the following would be acceptable to me:

1) You use a treatment that's guaranteed safe around pets
2) You use no treatment
3) You erect a fence around the area of concern
4) You inform me that you're going to spray, and we work together to make sure my chickens don't get into your yard for a certain amount of time after treatment.

I wouldn't, however, want them scratching around after you'd treated the area with chemicals. Just too many unknowns. And if it didn't visibly affect them, I'd wonder how it was affecting the eggs that *I'm* eating for breakfast.

Thanks for thinking of the neighbor chooks!
posted by mudpuppie at 3:07 PM on April 17, 2012 [3 favorites]

Imidacloprid is pretty much an invertebrate-specific poison, although it's also toxic to birds. Despite that, in Australia at least it's registered for use in and around poultry facilities for pest control, but requires that the poultry be removed until it dries.

If you're watering it in around the base of the trees, then you could do it when there's no chickens around (in the evening when they're roosting?). But, as mudpuppie suggests, check with your neighbours in case they're particularly concerned about the organic status of their chickens / eggs.
posted by Pinback at 3:10 PM on April 17, 2012

I would say, tell your neighbor exactly what you're spraying, where and when, and let them do what they need to do if they feel like they need to keep their chickens in their own yard from then on.
posted by deadmessenger at 3:20 PM on April 17, 2012 [5 favorites]

It comes in a liquid and a pellet form. Use the liquid and ask your neighbor to keep the chickens away for 24 hours after you spray.
posted by raisingsand at 3:27 PM on April 17, 2012

Response by poster: Strass, I've tried every single one of those tips that I can, multiple times. Those are all great for plants that are close to the ground. They've been useless on trees that are three times taller than my house.

Thanks, everybody else. I'm actually not 100% sure which neighbor these chickens belong to (yay urban farming!), so I may just wait until the fence goes up. It'll give me an extra push to get that project done too. Either that, or it'll give me the push to figure out exactly whose chickens they are.

FWIW, I have the liquid on hand -- not spray, but pour at the base of the tree for systemic effect. (We tried spraying once and that was useless.) I was ::this:: close to mixing & pouring when I thought of the chickies.
posted by epersonae at 3:31 PM on April 17, 2012

A fence is a good idea - since you're applying it systemically, you have to consider that the area around those trees (and the leaves falling off those trees) will be imidacloprid-laced for months. The natural half-life of imidacloprid in soil is 48-190 days.

One of the main tenets of ecologically friendly gardening is 'the right plant in the right place.' If you have the appropriate plants for your environment, they won't get massive pest problems that require pesticides to control. A major honeydew problem like you describe suggests the trees aren't that healthy. I love big trees, so I know suggesting you get rid of them is sort of heart-wrenching, but would you consider having a certified arborist come in to make sure that you are treating the problem correctly, and that the trees don't pose any risks to your house?
posted by emyd at 3:48 PM on April 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

Why not dig a few small holes near the trees, pour in your pesticide mixture in there, cover with a piece of plywood or such, then, when all the solution has been absorbed into the soil, fill the hole. Based on this, it shouldn't pose a huge threat to your neighbor's chickens, but telling them what you are up to would be the neighborly thing to do.

Assuming your trees are finished blooming and given your mode of delivery, this shouldn't pose that much of a threat to bees.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 4:06 PM on April 17, 2012

have you considered, ahem, chicken-wire? pesticide around tree, chicken-wire around and over that for a week or two...done. plus: cheap.
also, if you can't figure out who the chickens belong to, pick up some chicken feed while you're at it and bait them away from the area for a while.
posted by sexyrobot at 10:54 PM on April 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

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