Congress Cites Zika Virus in Effort to Attack Water Protections

Beyond Pesticides, May 19, 2016

Using fear without facts, Congress is yet again attempting to gut Clean Water Act (CWA) provisions that protect waterways and communities from excessive pesticide pollution. In a move that was blasted by House Democrats this week, HR 897 (which was introduced as the Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act of 2015) was renamed the Zika Vector Control Act, despite the fact that the bill does not actually do anything to address the threat of Zika. The legislation was defeated Tuesday on a suspension vote, 262-159, however the bill will be going to the Rules Committee on Monday, with anticipated House floor activity on Tuesday, May 24. (Take action: urge your representative to oppose HR 897.)

spraypond“In a brazenly political act, the Republican leadership is trying to mask gutting the Clean Water Act as having something to do with fighting Zika,” Drew Hammill, spokesman for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), said in a statement to The Hill. “This bill has nothing to do with Zika and everything to do with Republicans’ relentless special interest attacks on the Clean Water Act,” he said. “It will do nothing to stem the growing threat of the Zika virus.”

The bill reverses a 2009 federal court decision in National Cotton Council v. EPA that directed EPA to require permits from applicators who spray over “navigable waters,” as outlined in the CWA. It also follows years of failed attempts to repeal the Pesticide General Permit and allow pesticides to be discharged into bodies of water without federal oversight….

read more and follow links at Beyond Pesticides

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What can I do to reduce the mosquito population?

Here is the enemy: larvae

But those are mosquito larvae, which don’t bite.

Right, but once larvae hatch, it is really too late for that batch. One female mosquito, with an occasional protein infusion from blood, lays 100+ eggs. The eggs hatch into larvae (as pictured), which fly away as adults in a few days.

Can’t we just spray and kill all the mosquitoes?

Air-borne insecticides, a temporary fix, may kill 80% of adult mosquitoes in the vicinity, but do not affect eggs, larvae, or pupae (the larvae who have already moved to a cocoon-like phase). Within a few days, the population is restored. Besides, many species can fly a mile or more. And even worse, the more we spray, the more likely mosquitoes are to become resistant to the insecticides we use.

So what do we do?

We must eliminate stagnant water! It sounds easy but requires imagination. Empty out birdbaths, pails of water, saucers under plants, and whatever else can hold water. And look overhead: be sure your house eaves drain. Spill out ALL standing water every 3-5 days to be safe.

How about ponds and streams?

A biological agent called Bti, widely available, prevents larvae from growing into adults. If the water is running, no problem. Swimming pools usually have enough chlorine to kill larvae.

Where can I get more information?

West Chester Borough has a new program and web page for residents to help their neighbors eliminate mosquito breeding. See here.

The County has two relevant pages, one on avoiding mosquito-borne diseases generally and one more specifically West Nile Virus. Both stress how to keep mosquitoes from breeding on our property. In fact, the County health regulations require us to avoid breeding mosquitoes.

See also excellent advice from the West Baton Rouge Parish Council Mosquito Abatement program, including video showing where mosquito larvae flourish and what they look like.

And talk to your neighbors, especially any who may be circulating information on mosquito control.

Chester County Health Department offers advice on prevention of mosquito-borne diseases

Press release from CHESTER COUNTY HEALTH DEPARTMENT, May 19, 2016

Make you and your home a bite-free zone

West Chester, PA – Now that the weather is warming up, the Chester County Health Department encourages county residents to “Make you and your home a bite-free zone”, reducing the risk of mosquito-borne diseases like West Nile virus and Zika virus.

Because mosquito-borne diseases are spread through the bite of an infected mosquito, residents can reduce their risk by using insect repellent and other personal protection and getting rid of standing water on their property…

download the full release under the heading “Make your home a Mosquito-FREE zone” at CHESTER COUNTY HEALTH DEPARTMENT

Mayor Comitta’s letter

Below is the text of the letter from Mayor Carolyn Comitta being circulated to Borough residents in May, 2016. Download pdf here: Mayor’s mosquito letter.

Dear Borough Resident and/or Property Owner:

Since West Chester Borough’s beginnings, its citizens and leaders have valued and protected our environment. The recognition of the importance of green stewardship still resonates today through the many environmentally focused and sustainable initiatives in place throughout the Borough.

The most recent of these initiatives is the West Nile Task Force (WNTF), formed of Borough leaders, staff, and citizens, whose involvement began last summer when there was a realization for the need to protect the community against pesticide spraying, in order to create awareness and educate the community on the importance of mosquito control practices in the Borough. By eliminating potential breeding grounds for mosquito larvae, the need for spraying pesticides should be greatly reduced. This task force works closely with the Chester County Health Department (CCHD) in order to identify best management practices in preventing mosquitos from breeding on Borough properties.

This task force, with the help of the “Don’t Spray Me” group of borough residents, will look to educate our residents and property owners on how to take the correct preventative measures to keep mosquitos from breeding and to hopefully eliminate the need for spraying anti-mosquito pesticides in the Borough. The spraying of these pesticides becomes necessary only if adult mosquitos in an area test positive for WNV and is regarded by the CCHD as a last resort.

Let’s use the first resort: preventing mosquitoes from breeding! Yes, our own yards and houses are a large part of the problem!

Here are some things you can do to ensure you are not creating potential breeding grounds on your property:

• Do not leave trash cans outside uncovered.
• Keep wading pools covered or emptied.
• Do not store old tires outside.
• Wheelbarrows, pots, plastic containers, etc. should be turned over so as to not collect water.
• Do not allow water in bird baths to become stagnant.
• Drill holes in the bottom of recycling containers to eliminate standing water.
• Clean roof gutters, particularly if leaves from surrounding trees have a tendency to plug drains.
• Clean and chlorinate swimming pools regularly.
• Apply larvicide to areas of stagnant water that cannot be drained.

As your Mayor, I recognize the importance of protecting our community. So let’s all work together and tackle the mosquito issue. With your help, we can make West Chester a clean, green and bite-free zone!

Carolyn T. Comitta, Mayor
Borough of West Chester

When We Fumigate Flies and Mosquitoes, Are We Poisoning Ourselves?

By Maryam Henein, Truthout. 10/11/15

We arrived at the Las Manos border between Honduras and Nicaragua at nightfall. Our 24-person permaculture group had already been sitting in a van for nearly 24 hours, cruising the Pan-American Highway – the world’s longest “motorable road” – from Guatemala.

As we slowed to a stop behind a long row of cars, we spotted a man with a handkerchief over his face and scant other protective gear. He was curved forward, holding a metal hose and spraying the lower parts of each passing vehicle.

“Poisonous Gases Fumigation Area” was written in Spanish on a looming billboard.
My eyes stung and I began to cough. Whatever had been sprayed was drifting in the air, invisible but poisonous.

Questions flooded into my mind: Why wasn’t the man wearing proper safety equipment like an oxygen mask, overalls, boots and gloves? What were they spraying on the vehicles, specifically the wheels? Did insects really hitch rides on tires? If so, which ones?

As someone who suffers from an autoimmune condition and is extremely sensitive to chemicals, this site freaked me out; it all seemed dangerous and foolish….

read more at Truthout

Forgo the Fog: Alternatives to Mosquito Fogging

Midwest Pesticide Action Center

Summer is peak mosquito season, complete with annoying bites and fears about West Nile virus. While mosquitoes can be a nuisance, Mosquito Abatement Districts (MADs) do not necessarily have to resort to fogging in order to control mosquito populations.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the American Mosquito Control Association, the airborne spraying of pesticides, commonly called mosquito ‘fogging’, to kill adult mosquitoes is the least effective method to control mosquito populations. Fogging usually consists of spraying or fogging pesticides from the back of a truck or plane.

This method is ineffective because the pesticide only kills those mosquitoes flying in the spray; mosquitoes behind buildings or under vegetation are not affected. Airborne pesticides are particularly harmful as they may be easily ingested by humans and wildlife. Pesticide residue can also be left behind on items kept outdoors, such as children’s toys and outdoor furniture, or tracked inside on shoes. Since fogging also kills insects that eat mosquitoes, it can cause future population booms for local mosquitoes….

MPAC recommends three alternatives to fogging…

read more at Midwest Pesticide Action Center

Make Your Home a Bite-Free Zone

from Chester County Health Department’s Mosquito-Borne Diseases page:

Mosquitoes lay eggs in standing water (water that does not flow). Getting rid of standing water on your property can help decrease the mosquito population, your risk of getting a mosquito-borne disease, and may also help decrease the need for mosquito control sprays in your neighborhood.

Cover or empty containers such as trash cans, wading pools, wheelbarrows, and pots.
Turn containers upside down when not in use so they don’t collect water.
Drill holes in the bottom of recycling containers.
Get rid of old tires.
Change the water in bird baths every three to five days.
Check storm drains, window wells, and underneath leaky faucets for standing water.
Clean roof gutters every year.
Aerate and/or stock ornamental ponds and fountains with fish.
Keep swimming pools clean and chlorinated. Make sure that water does not gather on swimming pool covers.
Treat a pool of standing water that cannot be drained with Bti products. Bti is a naturally-occurring bacterial product that kills mosquito larvae and is safe for people, pets, aquatic life, and plants. You can find these products at local lawn and garden supply stores.
Make sure window and door screens fit tightly to keep mosquitoes out of your home.
Run electric fans nearby when spending time outdoors. Mosquitoes have trouble flying in strong winds.
Replace outdoor lights with yellow “bug” lights, which tend to attract fewer mosquitoes than ordinary lights.

Please do not expand mosquito spraying due to Zika panic

by 18watt_fan, PolkMoms, February 8, 2016

Poison is not the answer.

Long term, it always makes the problem much worse. Not only does it contribute to selection-pressure which leads to the breeding of more virulent/robust pathogens and ‘pests’, it also kills-off natural predators to the mosquito or whichever ‘pest’ that is being poisoned.

In addition, all of this spraying is very harmful to beneficial species, such as honeybees, various fish, birds and yes, even humans.

Here’s an excerpt from a petition that’s circulating in Dallas TX concerning this issue:

“The city of Dallas sprays the poison Permethrin, a deadly poison to MANY insects. That includes beneficial insects such as honeybees and ladybugs as well as natural mosquito predators such as dragonflies. Many beekeepers around Dallas have reported their bees have been killed. In addition, fish, some of which eat mosquito larvae, are killed by this poison. There is also other wildlife to consider such as bats, birds, and geckos, which all prey on mosquitoes but are harmed by the spraying….”

Read more at PolkMomsand also watch the video “West Nile Spraying Puts Dallas Bees in Peril.”

Low-Tech Trap Might Help Fight Zika Virus Outbreaks, CDC says

by Maggie Fox, NBC News, 5/11/16

A low-tech mosquito trap might help control the mosquitoes that spread Zika virus, as well as other viruses such as dengue and chikungunya, government researchers said Tuesday.

The traps cut in half the number of cases of chikungunya when they were used in a few neighborhoods in Puerto Rico over the winter, a team at Puerto Rico’s health department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
CDC and the Puerto Rico Department of Health designed this simple bucket trap to control Aedes aegypti mosquitoes CDC

“We think if it’s effective against chikungunya virus transmission, then it should be effective against transmission of other pathogens, such as dengue and Zika viruses,” said Tyler Sharp, an epidemiologist at the CDC’s dengue branch in Puerto Rico.

The trap uses no pesticides or chemical attractants. The mosquitoes can develop resistance to insecticides and have done so in parts of Puerto Rico. …

read more at NBC News