The weather is getting warmer, and gardens are coming alive with bees, flies, butterflies, dragonflies, praying mantises, beetles, millipedes, centipedes, and spiders.
For some of us it is exciting to see these strange and wonderful creatures return. For others, it's a sign to contact the local pest control company or go to the supermarket to stock up on sprays.
But while some bugs do us very few favours — like mozzies, snails and cockroaches — killing all insects and bugs isn't always necessary or effective. It can also damage ecosystems and our own health.
There are times when insecticides are needed (especially when pest populations are surging or the risk of disease is high), but you don't have to reach for the spray every time. Here are five good reasons to avoid pesticides wherever possible, and live and let live.
Encourage the bees and butterflies, enjoy more fruits and flowers
Flowers and fruits are the focal points of even the smallest gardens, and many of our favourites rely on visits from insect pollinators. We all know about the benefits of European honey bees (Apis mellifera), but how about our "home grown" pollinators – our native bees, hover flies, beetles, moths and butterflies? All these species contribute to the pollination of our native plants and fruits and veggies.
You can encourage these helpful pollinators by growing plants that flower at different times of the year (especially natives) and looking into sugar-water feeders or insect hotels.
Delight your decomposers, they're like mini bulldozers
To break down leaf litter and other organic waste you need decomposers. Worms, beetles and slaters will munch through decaying vegetation, releasing nutrients into the soil that can be used by plants.
The problem is that urban soils are frequently disturbed and can contain high levels of heavy metals that affects decomposer communities. If there are fewer "'bugs" in the soil, decomposition is slower — so we need to conserve our underground allies.