Petition to your public officials to end mosquito spraying from Beyond Pesticides

See background write-up and sign the petition here. The Don’t Spray Me! board has approved signing on as an organization; please add your individual signature as well. The text of the petition is below. The URL at the very end downloads the pdf of “PUBLIC HEALTH MOSQUITO MANAGEMENT STRATEGY For Decision Makers and Communities,” a very thorough summary of issues related to mosquito control and spraying.

Mosquito spray programs, which target flying mosquitoes with highly toxic organophosphate or synthetic pyrethroid insecticides, are ineffective and endanger our health. These pesticides, which are generally applied as ultra-low-volume (ULV) formulations, will float in the air longer than usual because of their small droplet size, but will eventually land on lawns, gardens, and anything that is outside. That droplet size also allows them to be carried deeper into the lungs. These pesticides can cause a wide range of health effects in humans, including exacerbating respiratory illness like Covid-19, and harm our environment.

Symptoms of organophosphate poisoning in humans include numbness, tingling sensations, headache, dizziness, tremors, nausea, abdominal cramps, sweating, incoordination, blurred vision, difficulty breathing, slow heartbeat, loss of consciousness, incontinence, convulsions, and death. Some organophosphates have been linked to birth defects, cancer, and brain effects. Symptoms of synthetic pyrethroid poisoning include dermatitis and asthma-like reactions, eye and skin irritation, and flu-like symptoms. Synthetic pyrethroids are endocrine disruptors and have been linked to breast and prostate cancer. People with asthma and pollen allergies should be especially cautious. Exposure has resulted in deaths from respiratory failure.

Naled, an organophosphate commonly used for mosquito control, affects a variety of non-target animals, including fish, insects, aquatic invertebrates, and honey bees. Naled is moderately acutely toxic to mammals, moderately to very highly toxic to freshwater fish and birds, highly toxic to honey bees, and very highly toxic to freshwater aquatic invertebrates, and estuarine fish and invertebrates. Elevated mortality rates among honey bees have been documented after nighttime aerial ULV applications of naled. Synthetic pyrethroids are highly toxic to fish and honey bees, even in low doses. Beneficial insects, including mosquito predators like dragonflies, will be killed by synthetic pyrethroids and organophosphates.

In addition to the dangers, spraying to kill adult mosquitoes (adulticiding) is the least effective mosquito control method. Close to 99.9% of sprayed chemicals goes off into the environment where they can have detrimental effects on public health and ecosystems, leaving 0.10% to actually hit the target pest. In addition, efforts to control the transmission of mosquito-borne diseases are encountering a big, though predictable, problem—mosquitoes are developing resistance to insecticides.

There are better ways to manage mosquito problems. Outbreaks of disease-carrying mosquitoes often result from habitat disturbance, such as deforestation, impairing wetlands, and spraying insecticides. Restoring the health of ecosystems helps keep mosquitoes under control. Native minnows, for example, can provide effective control of mosquito larvae breeding in standing water. Where water cannot be emptied from containers, the bacterial larvicide Bacillus thurigiensis israelensis is a least-toxic option. A better mosquito management plan protects public health and the environment. Please tell our local and state health departments to abandon spraying and adopt a mosquito management plan that does not depend on toxic chemicals: bp-dc.org/mosquito-mgmt.

Thank you for your consideration of my concerns.

Insects we don’t want

Of course, all species are part of nature and part of the food chain. But birds, bats and others who consume mosquitoes must have more than their fill by now, and spotted lanternflies have no predators here. What can we do to cut down on the excess?

This red-bottomed bird bath in West Chester has mosquito eggs (the grain-like spots among the debris) floating on the surface. In another day, the eggs will hatch into larvae which will grow to about 3/8 inch long; they come to the surface to breathe, but forage for food farther down and will wriggle about if you tap the bird bath. A few more days and they become pupae, which look like small stalks hanging from the surface. Another day or two and the adult mosquitoes will emerge, spread its wings and fly away.

What do we do about it? Tip the water out of the bird bath (and all other sources of stagnant water) every few days!

Spotted lanternflies are a recent invasive species; their point of diffusion in the US seems to have been our part of Pennsylvania in about 2012. They have an attractive and even exotic look with some of their developmental phases (instars) being black with white spots and others featuring red. They suck sap from the stems of trees, some agricultural crops, shrubs like roses, and even lace vines. They favor newer, more tender growth… right where they (and their sticky excretions that host a blackish mold and the leaking sap that attracts other insects) do the most harm.

What do we do about it? The most environmental solution is to apply a band of sticky tape around any tree they are trying to crawl up. Only the adult phase has wings, and even those hop more than they fly; but they are very agile and hard to catch or squash. However, they definitely do not like being sprayed with a solution of dish soap and water; if you have an old spray bottle, that sends them hopping away and, after several applications, seems to deter them from returning to the same site.

The photo, from East Bradford, shows an early morning’s catch; by evening, the tape was entirely covered. You can almost feel sorry for them as you hear the crackling noise, like Rice Krispies in milk, of hundreds of feet lifting off the sticky tape, to no avail since all of the other 5 feet remain stuck. But do they feel sorry for the damage they do?

(If you use tape, be sure to cover it with chicken wire, as shown, to prevent birds from getting stuck as well.)

You might even think they are sort of cute… until you notice their tarry excretions killing everything underneath where they are sucking the sap of, in this case, a birch tree. Free Roundup, anyone?