Does evil lurk in your wildlife garden? It may if you don’t tend to your pet waste. Not the most pleasant subject, but one that needs to be talked about, nonetheless. A lot of people think of pet waste as “fertilizer” but while it is rich in nutrients, it is also rich in things that just don’t belong in your garden. The difference between dogs and cats and cows and horses are that our pets eat meat whereas livestock are primarily herbivores so their manure doesn’t usually harbor potential problems that can be found in the waste of meat eaters.
From a brochure produced by Island County in Washington State:
“Dog and cat feces can transmit giardia, bacterial infections including salmonella, and hookworms that cause skin sores in humans. Dog feces often contain roundworms; the larvae from roundworms can travel through the human body and ultimately damage the brain or eyes. Cat feces can carry toxoplasmosis, a disease that can cause brain damage in unborn babies.”
Do you really want to leave this potential “bomb” laying around in your yard? I am meticulous about cleaning up after my three dogs. I “scout” the yard at least once a day, often two or three times. The faster you pick up after your pet, the better your chances are at avoiding potential infections. I also make use of this time to visit my garden and snap photographs of the wildlife within.
Certain scarab beetles sneak up from under the soil and pull down a ball of poop into their tunnels as a means to feed their larva. These guys are called “ball rollers” and they don’t discriminate between pet waste and usable manure. That means that potential infection is being dragged underground where the overly-rich nutrients can filter into the soil and perhaps leach out into waterways where it can cause algae blooms that will affect fish. These beetles were considered sacred to ancient Egyptians because they seemed to emerge from nowhere and the apparent “self creation” resembled the Sun God Ra who created himself out of nothing. It served as a symbol of regeneration, renewal and resurrection.
Ignoring waste that remains above ground can allow it to be washed into storm sewers where it can ultimately wind up in our lakes and streams. Now, if you live in Florida where we get our water from the underground aquifer, YUK!
You can’t control how far the dung beetle builds the tunnel so who’s to say he isn’t gathering his “goodies” and pulling it over toward a different section of your garden. As can be seen in the top photo, they fly so as they move around above ground, they can potentially bring infectious waste with them to an edible part of your landscape. Don’t take a chance.
The best means of disposal is to bag it immediately and toss it in the trash. Landfills are lined and monitored and offer the easiest and best means of protecting your garden.
Loret is an active member of The Florida Native Plant Society. Their 31st Annual Conference is scheduled for May 2011 in her Central Florida area. Over 40 speakers and workshops to help you learn about native plants and their value in a wildlife garden. Follow her on twitter @PineLilyFNPS
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