Consistent message on leaves needed

To the editor,

Tick-borne illnesses are on the rise in Maine: in addition to the dreaded and debilitating Lyme disease, Maine has seen a surge in babesiosis, anaplasmosis and Powassan encephalitis.

I’m glad to live in a community that cares enough about public health to recognize the dangers of chemical pesticides; however, there’s been conflicting information coming from the city of South Portland about how residents should respond to the growing number of ticks in our yards.

When I contacted city hall last spring and asked how to get rid of ticks in a way that complies with the city’s pesticide ordinance, I
was given a helpful list of steps to take, and the number one item on the list was “remove leaf litter.” Fallen leaves provide an ideal year-round home for ticks, protecting them from excessive heat, cold, and dryness.

Remove the leaves and you’ll have fewer ticks. Makes sense.

The city’s official newsletter, however, has been urging residents to “Leave the Leaves” and directs readers to a website that implores us not to rake, blow, shred or bag the leaves in our yards, citing many benefits for birds, bees, butterflies and other backyard critters.

I love birds, bees and butterflies. I don’t want to deprive them of nutrition and protection. On the other hand, I’ve experienced
firsthand the immense suffering and disability caused by tick-borne illnesses.

It would be helpful if the city of South Portland could provide a unified and consistent message on this important subject.

Adrian Dowling
South Portland

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