Man should leave nature alone

I used to like ladybugs. They were cute little, sweet little critters. They were pretty colors. They ate nasty aphids. They looked more like toys than insects. What wasn’t to like?

Then I came to Indiana, where I met the so-called Asian lady beetle. These bugs aren’t friendly and sweet. They’re stinky, they’re dingy colors and they’re meaner than internet trolls. They bite. They taste so bad cats won’t touch them. Worst of all, they get into everything.

Finally, one sunny day last week when they were all over the west side of the house, I couldn’t take it any more. I was vacuuming, sweeping, bagging — and cussing. If a hammer would have worked on the little fiends, I’d have been pounding them and loving every squish.

Checking into their natural history, I learned that humans were dumb enough to import these nasty things — on purpose. The plan was to have them eat all our aphids. Apparently, American ladybugs weren’t doing the job.

Maybe it seemed like a good idea at the time. But now these newcomers have crowded out our own ladybugs. As one article said, “Asian lady beetles wear out their welcome in a hurry.” But we brought them in, and they’re here to stay.

Moving animals from continent to continent has a long and sorry history. We brought in the carp and the English sparrow. We may hate them now, but it’s too late. Same with the “bighead carp,” “walking catfish” and pythons in the Florida Everglades. You’d think we would learn. But we don’t.

At the same time, we’ve driven more desirable species to extinction or near extinction. We totally wiped out the passenger pigeon, which seemed impossible when flocks of them darkened the skies and broke down trees. We nearly wiped out the buffalo, which also seemed impossible back when herds stretched as far as the eye could see.

Make no mistake, human actions do change the environment. Once we change it, we can rarely, if ever, go back. My fight with Asian lady beetles is just one, tiny example.

That brings us back to southern Indiana. A few months ago, I decried the effect of global warming and drought on southern Indiana tulip trees. I cited the hundreds of tulip trees that died in the drought a couple of summers ago.

One fellow started saying I didn’t know what I was talking about. It wasn’t warmth and drought that killed the tulip trees, he claimed. It was tulip tree scale insects.

This is what’s called a half-truth. Yep, tulip tree scale was the big killer of tulip trees that summer.

But I do know something about tulip tree scale. I was up on a ladder with a scraper that summer, scraping them off my own year-old tulip tree sapling to keep it alive.

But the reason we had such a problem with tulip tree scale? It was because they hadn’t been killed in the winter due to a record warm winter. When the drought hit, it was a double whammy — all caused by climate.

There are endless examples of how human beings change the natural world around us. We’ve done it for generations and we’re getting worse at it all the time. Once we do change the world, it’s impossible to get it back the way it was.

So whether it’s climate change or bringing in invasive species, we need to stop and think. Are we treating creation the way we want creation to treat us? Because when we don’t we will wind up paying the price.

The Rev. Dennis McCarty is a community columnist and all opinions expressed are those of the writer. He is a recently retired Columbus minister and remains active as minister emeritus and a freelance writer on art, ethics, religion and social issues. He can be reached at editorial@therepublic.com.