Mosquito Conundrum: To Spray or Not to Spray?

by Betty on May 11, 2017

Recently my friend called me asking for Betty’s help. There was an email exchange on her neighborhood listserv about a neighbor who was asking for recommendations on how to get rid of mosquitoes this summer and a couple folks encouraged her to use the local mosquito control companies that use insectides. She is a bird and bee lover, like Betty, so we wanted to help.

First of all, it’s understandable that folks would seek a solution for mosquito bites with the growing concern folks have of contracting life-changing, if not life-threatening diseases like tick-borne illnesses, west nile virus, and zika virus.

But do we really want to be blanketing our backyards (and in some cases parks and public spaces) with harmful insecticides? The biting beasts can certainly turn a backyard barbecue into a chorus of hand-slapping, which is annoying. And of course we don’t want our kids, families, and pets to become infected with a serious illness.

For those of us concerned about our feathered friends and all-important bees, it’s good to think twice about using these harmful chemicals. There are many preventative measures and alternatives you can choose to do instead of continual spraying of insectides.

First, the facts. We found a great fact sheet:

Here is a fact sheet from the National Pesticide Information Center on Bifenthrin

The bottom line for wildlife?

Can bifenthrin affect birds, fish, or other wildlife?

Bifenthrin is low in toxicity to birds. There are potential risks for birds and mammals that eat aquatic organisms because bifenthrin can last in a long time in the environment and it may accumulate in fish.

Bifenthrin is highly toxic to fish and small aquatic organisms. It’s also very highly toxic to bees.

And here is information on pyrethrins, a commonly used ingredient in insecticides:

So here’s what we recommend:

  1. Educate yourself and your friends on these products. Ask for the MSDS sheet (the material safety data sheet) and do some investigative research. As it seems we keeping getting new lawn care folks in my neighborhood, this is the first thing I do. And talk to your friends and neighbors about alternatives.
  2. Before you go the chemical route, take preventative measures by ridding your yard of all standing water (mosquito breeding ground). You can also plant species like lavendar, marigolds, and basil that mosquitoes don’t like.
  3. Try an alternative to spraying first. Mosquito Squad does offer a solution that is all-natural and essential-oil based. There are also many creative ideas on the web including like this one from treehugger.com.
  4. If you are not convinced of the safety and ecological risks and decide to go ahead and spray, do it for one or two occasions, but not on a regular basis.

In 2014 this conundrum came up for our neighbors to the North, Loudoun County, where the parks department was considering spraying due to lyme disease concerns. Due to an outpouring of concerned citizens they voted to NOT spray their parks. Here is the article from the Washington Post.

Here’s another article you might be interested in from the Environmental Health News – I always like to plug my friend Pete Myers organization when I can

Pyrethroids raise concerns

We hope this helps your neighbors decide the right thing to do for themselves, their family, and at the same time the ecology. Because about one mouthful in three in our diet directly or indirectly benefits from honey bee pollination, we all have a vested interest in keeping the bees healthy.

All the best,

Betty

 

 

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