Today there was a knock on my front door (just around dinner time). A young man told me that my neighbors, two of them, just a couple doors down, are spraying their yards for bugs. Of course he was hoping I'd do it too, it was a sales call after all. I asked a few questions - he showed me the sheet of bugs that they kill - it was a huge list, with pictures. Everything from spiders to ants. And mice were included. I didn't see gophers, but I can't imagine they'll like the spraying. I mentioned my bee hive. He said they use a 'natural' product, but that the company didn't claim to be 'environmental.'

We do have spiders here (even black widows, which are quite shy and only come out at night). We have ants aplenty and it sucks when they come in to the kitchen. We have yellow jackets, paper wasps, probably hundreds of native ground-dwelling bees. We have crane flies which are spooky looking. All of these creatures have their place in nature - even yellow jackets, though my human brain can't comprehend what it is. Ants are important predators in the yard. Spiders get rid of those pesky flies - though I must say, I've seen several flies pollinating my garden this year. Paper wasps not only pollinate, they lay their eggs on parasitic worms like hornworms. When the babies hatch, they eat the worm from the inside out, thereby helping the plants.

And then, there's my honeybees. Approximately 30,000 of them. Losing a few won't hurt the hive. But think of all those little feet, climbing over all the flowers in those yards. Think of those feet coming home and getting wiped on a doormat of comb. That wax is in the hive for years. Babies are born in that wax. People want to EAT that honey that is stored in that wax. In light of the great numbers of pollinators dying, and the recent news that many pesticides (well, duh) contribute to colony collapse disorder - I just can't understand why anyone would want to spray.

And it goes without saying that when you spray for bad bugs, you kill the good ones. All the hundreds of thousands of tiny creatures, things that live in the soil and make it healthy.

There's nothing I can do about it. Each person is entitled to their beliefs. Each family deals with things in different ways. Our daughter is autistic, and she went through a many-year period of being simply terrified of bugs. Like, scream and cry terrified. If a crane fly went in her bedroom, we killed it - we weren't going to torture her. But at the same time, we were constantly teaching her, helping her to know about bugs and the role they play in nature. We studied bugs, we read books about bugs, we watched nature shows about bugs. I'd point bugs out in the garden. We'd admire their structure, their wings. Kate was even afraid of pretty bugs, like butterflies. I think bugs were just too much out of her control. It was a nightmare, her fear. We had long talks about choosing to NOT be afraid of bugs. Choosing to live differently. We were very firm that the world held bugs, lots of bugs, and while we would kill a fly who came into her bedroom, we wouldn't kill indescriminately.

It was a long road, but now, Kate often helps me open the hive and check on the bees. If we had just killed everything in our yard, she would have lived out the rest of her life, afraid.

I'm sorry to confess that this attitude did not come naturally to me. In our previous house, there was a serious ant problem. It was new construction in a new development, and the ants were displaced, just looking for a place to go. But they were EVERYWHERE. It was impossible to stand in the yard outside without having ants crawl on us. We had babies. We were grossed out. We hired a company to come kill them. Once a month, this guy came and sprayed our yard and the foundation of our house. The ants didn't have a chance. A year later, my son developed leukemia. (Yes, we have one kid with autism, and one who had cancer.) Coincidence? Studies showed both diseases have a genetic link with an environmental trigger. Studies show both are affected by pesticides in the home. Years later, when I found this out, I was sick with grief and guilt.

Did we, in our ignorance, cause these things? I may never know. I will always blame myself for it. I will never, ever spray like that again. I'm emphatic about it. Yeah, I do put out borax for the ants, when they get in the hive, or in my kitchen. Yeah, I spray garlic oil on the aphids. Yeah, I selectively kill European invasive rats in my compost. I'm not a purist. But I've evolved enough not to do what my neighbors are doing.

Writing about all of this reminds me to recommend a book, Grass, Soil, Hope by Courtney White. It's about carbon sequestering in soil. Yeah, it sounds dry and scientific - but it's fascinating. The bottom line is that healing our soil can heal our climate change problem. In order to heal the soil, a lot of folks are going to have to change their minds about how we farm, how we raise food animals, and how we deal with weeds and bugs. This has been a constant process for me - switching to humanely raised animals first, then switching to all pastured meat. Starting out buying organic greens, then focusing on the Dirty Dozen, then switching to all organic produce, finally producing our own. It's baby steps. It takes a radical mind-shift: How do I want our bodies, our home, our yard, to look and function?

I can only hope for a moment, in the future, to bend my neighbor's ears. Perhaps one day they'll ask how the bees are doing. That might provide an opening to have a discussion about how bees are dying in radical numbers. I can plant a seed. They'll think about it. Maybe in a couple of years, they'll change their minds. I can only hope.