Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Protect dogs and bees: Skip the weed killer

Sinead posing with flowers and weeds

Now that spring is here, many of us are heading outside with our dogs to enjoy the sunshine, fresh air and bird calls. We're shaking off the confinement of winter, and we're remembering what it's like to be connected to all the wonders that nature has to offer. It's a great time to be alive.

But as we stretch and enjoy that spring, many of us are seeing a few things in our surroundings that are a little less than ideal. At least, I know I am.

Sinead here is posing next to a group of volunteer grape hyacinth, growing in a crack in the driveway. I love those little purple flowers, but look closely at what's growing around them.

Yup, those are dandelions.

Dandelions put down very deep roots, and they're very hard to completely eradicate in a sidewalk. And in most cases, people want to pull out those weeds, because they can grow and grow and make a tiny crack even wider as the years pass.

If you look for solutions in your local hardware store or neighborhood big box store, you'll see bottle after bottle of herbicides that are designed to kill things growing in cracks.

Please, please, please don't use these.

Here's why.

Sinead the Boston terrier with flowers

Bees are responsible for the vast majority of the food we eat. Their pollination work helps plants to produce. Without the work of bees, that pollination becomes difficult or impossible. And yet, the number of bees swarming the planet is declining.

Researchers are still investigating why this is happening, but some research suggests that herbicides like Roundup are playing a part in declining bee health. And that research suggests that Roundup can be remarkably persistent in the ground, so an application could harm bees for weeks.

Similarly, research suggests that dogs can be harmed by exposure to herbicides. And that research also suggests that dogs can pick up traces of herbicide for weeks after it's been applied.

Put that together, and it seems like these herbicides have the potential to do a great deal of damage to both dogs and bees. And that one little squirt could continue to cause damage for an extended period of time.

Does that mean you have to live with weeds in cracks? No.

Hubby and I use boiling water applications on persistent weeds in cracks. We take a bit of the water left over from the kettle we boil for tea, and we dump it on the plants we see in the cracks. Sometimes, one shot is enough to eradicate the weeds. Sometimes, it takes more than one.

Water harms neither bee nor dog. It's inexpensive. And it works.

There are all sorts of other things you can do to keep your dogs away from pesticides, including keeping your dogs on the sidewalk during walks. But those bees? They need more help. I talk to my neighbors about bees when I see them spraying Roundup. I talk to my friends about the water trick. I try to spread the word.

Would you consider doing the same? The bees need us.


  1. I wish grape hyacinth would volunteer to grow around my sidewalks! Dandelions are all I ever get, but this year we've decided not to worry too much about them. It seems chancy to use that stuff around our grandkids, dog and cat. If we're helping to save the bees, so much the better!

  2. We gave up the weed killer years ago. I didn't want the dogs in the yard with it. We use vinegar on the places we need to keep the weeds at bay.

  3. We don't use pesticide on our weeds. I like your boiling water tip, we'll have to try it.

  4. Great idea for using boiling water! We live in a neighborhood where most people use professional lawn treatment companies and even though they put out those little signs, I feel like Haley must probably walk through a lot of pesticides when she steps in all those yards. I sure wish there were better alternatives for keeping a green lawn or maybe we should all let our lawns become more natural looking.

  5. Weed killer is so scary, and our bees need all the help they can get. Thanks for the water trick -- we'll have to try that out!

  6. Great water tip! We like to let some of the dandelions grow so that we can make some wishes! ;)

  7. I like your idea of boiling water on them.

  8. Not to worry, no weed killer here! You might not want to get rid of all the dandelions, they are said to be edible. We haven't tried them yet, but some of the other wild plants we have tried taste pretty good. You just have to make sure one of the dogs didn't "go" on it first ;) lol

  9. I'm with you on this one! Not to mention how toxic it is for our family and the environment.

  10. When flowering weeds come up along our sidewalk, I use vinegar for the really noxious stuff. If they are dandelions, I just pull off the flowers so they don't spread as much. It's a pain to pull and they always return, but it's better for the yard, the dogs and the environment. Fortunately, the bees in my yard seem to prefer the flowering perennials so we have our far share of those kinds of pollinators.