Ravens, Crows, Bedbugs, and Drain Flies Among Pests City Combats With Chemicals

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Begone, critters.
Following Tuesday's election, San Francisco may seem like a political island in a sea of shellacking states. Judging from a recent report from the Department of Environment's Integrated Pest Management Plan, we're an island under constant attack.

Last year San Francisco bought 2,227 pounds of pesticides to abate creatures such as ravens, rats, crows, mice, algae, bedbugs, and all sorts of different weeds. If it weren't for the hidden bait traps in Muni buses, the coaches would be overrun with roaches. Harding Park Golf Course is a veritable sponge for insecticides, thanks to strict Professional Golf Association requirements that the place be kept pest-and-weed free. And there are downsides to San Francisco's role curating a world-class arboretum, conservatory of flowers, and Golden Gate Park nursery -- namely, an endless onslaught of "thrips, white flies, scale, aphids, mealybugs, and more," according to the city's annual pesticide report, delivered in late October.

Given San Francisco's environmental bent, the city has gone to great lengths to reduce its pesticide use, cutting applications by 81 percent since 1996.

The city would have made even greater strides toward pesticide elimination if not for a misguided policy to spend taxpayer dollars keeping Harding Park Golf Course up to PGA standards.

According to the report;

The most hazardous pesticides, in the largest amounts, are still consumed by the City's golf courses, and particularly by Harding Park. This is primarily due to the extraordinarily high cosmetic and playability requirements of international tournaments. In 2009, Harding Park managers switched to an herbicide product called K-O-G which contains a much lower concentration of active ingredient - thus posing lower worker health hazard. However, this change also dramatically increases the poundage of herbicides used. Recreation & Park staff have experimented with a variety of less-toxic products in order to control problematic weeds at the course (especially Soliva sessillus) but have not been successful. Nevertheless, Harding has received accolades from PGA Tours for using significantly less pesticides than comparable, tournament level courses.

But it's not just artificially pristine golf courses under attack. Soccer players at the Polo Fields in Golden Gate Park are pestered by ravens. So park workers apply a special chemical that makes grass taste bad to birds. Candlestick Park comes under assault from crows, requiring an application of pesticide. Rats and mice have infested Pier 17, so the Port of San Francisco's had poison bait set out.

For greenies fretful that the city would use any chemicals to kill pests, consider the alternative, the report suggests.

West Nile virus or encephalitis transmitted by mosquitoes, allergies or asthma caused by cockroaches, and enteric diseases spread by rats are a few examples of hazards posed by pests

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