You are probably all too familiar with the image of a straw scarecrow in torn clothes overlooking a farmer’s crops. These human-like figures have been used for over 3000 years to scare birds from disturbing crops. Given that this is such an old-fashioned method, you’re probably wondering – do farmers still use scarecrows?
Commercial farmers no longer use scarecrows
Scarecrows are still used today, however, commercial farmers don’t use scarecrows anymore since they don’t work very well in the long term, and the areas that need protection are massive. In addition, most birds are quick to pick up that a stagnant scarecrow doesn’t pose any danger. So unless you move your scarecrow around almost daily and change its appearance, scarecrows don’t really work.
Commercial farmers have started using a range of more effective solutions to keep their crops safe. For example, they often use nets, chemicals, reflective film ribbons (or mylar strips) tied to plants to create shimmers from the sun, or automatic noise guns that are powered by propane gas.
However, some commercial farmers just started calculating potential losses to birds as part of the costs of doing business, so they don’t invest in modern scarecrow alternatives. This is not the case for fruit farmers, as birds can damage up to 100 times the amount of fruit that they actually eat. In these cases, farmers often find that netting is the most effective method to protect their crops.
Even though commercial farmers no longer rely on scarecrows, they haven’t completely disappeared from farms. You can still find scarecrows protecting the crops of small-scale farmers. While it may mean that you need to put some effort into your scarecrow to ensure it’s effective, it’s still a much cheaper method than the technological scarecrow methods that commercial farmers use.
For example, in the Salinas Valley in California, you can still find plenty of farmers with scarecrows in their lettuce and strawberry fields. They are set up in such a way that they move with the wind giving the impression that they are alive. Other farmers have added elements such as tin pans that flash in the sun and bang against each other when the wind blows.
However, even with all these added elements, the birds will quickly grow used to these scarecrows. The effectiveness of scarecrows will also depend on the kind of bird. Some birds are quicker than others to pick up that the lifeless figure won’t hurt them.
When did people stop using scarecrows?
Commercial farmers were still using scarecrows until well after World War II. This was the case until they discovered that spraying their crops with pesticides like DDT. The heavy reliance on these kinds of pesticides only stopped in the 1960s when it was discovered how harmful they were to our health.
What are scarecrows used for today?
You’ll often still find scarecrows in people’s gardens. This is because it remains an easy and effective way for people to protect their plants. Although this does mean that they often have to move the scarecrow around, dress it up in different clothes and even change up its facial characteristics.
Scarecrows have also become a popular Halloween decoration, so you’ll often find them in someone’s yard during October. In recent decades scarecrows have become more of a symbolic figure than an actual tool people use.
During autumn in the valley region of Nova Scotia, Canada, scarecrows are turned into the ‘pumpkin people’. The figures, with pumpkins as heads, can be seen doing various activities, such as riding a wooden horse or playing the fiddle. Another town in Canada, Hickling, even hosts an annual scarecrow event for charity where the town’s residents create their own scarecrows from which a winner is eventually chosen.
Canadians seem to be extremely passionate about these strawmen- and women as the annual “Scarecrow Invasion” in Meaford, Ontario, is still going strong after 25 years. However, also across the pond, the passion for scarecrow festivals seems to be the same.
In England, you can visit the Urchfont Scarecrow Festival. First established in the 1990s, it has become a huge event attracting up to 10 000 people annually. Many other towns throughout England hold scarecrow events throughout the year and not only in the autumn months.
In the United States, you can visit the annual Scarecrow Festivals in St. Charles, Illinois, or the one in Peddler’s Village in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. The latter presents a scarecrow display that runs from September to October and attracts tens of thousands of visitors.
Even in the Philippines, you can visit a scarecrow festival known as the Bambanti Festival. The province where the festival is located invites all its towns and cities to participate in the week-long festivities.
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