Guest Rant by Joe Lamp’l
I’ve raved about his podcast before but the recent episode “Gardening Pet Peeves – My Top 10″ was particularly on-topic for us. So I asked Joe if we could publish his comments about something not mentioned here since 2007 – the pervasive greenwashing by mosquito spraying companies. Here’s what Joe wrote about them in his shownotes. Susan
Mosquito spraying services are becoming more common, and I cringe just thinking about it. What’s worse is that many of them are now touting their applications as “eco-friendly” or “all-natural”. Wow! Isn’t that terrific? Nope – it’s not terrific. It’s usually greenwashing and misleading, and our beneficial insects are paying a very heavy toll.
Be an educated gardener and look beyond the marketing word salad. Just because something is natural doesn’t mean it’s not harmful. Just like I mentioned in Pet Peeve #1, natural products don’t know the difference between a mosquito and a lady beetle and a honeybee. They just don’t.
A common ingredient in mosquito sprays is pyrethrin. It’s derived from chrysanthemum. What possible danger could come from the delicate bloom of a chrysanthemum? Plenty!
Pyrethrin is broad spectrum. It will definitely kill the mosquitos. It will, also, definitely kill the honeybee and the beneficial syrphid fly and the monarch and the lady beetle. Definitely.
Pay close attention to the details. For example, I checked out the website of one of the larger mosquito spraying services touting their “all natural” and “safe” product. In their own statement, they mention that the rosemary, peppermint and wintergreen oils on which their product is based target the neurotransmitters of invertebrates. Note that they don’t target just mosquitos. All invertebrates – including all the good guys – will be targeted.
They go on to state that the targeted neurotransmitter is the octopamine. The end result is a total breakdown of the insect nervous system.
What the site doesn’t tell you is that same neurotransmitter has been found to play a major role in learning and memory in the honeybee. In other words – even if the affected honeybee doesn’t die shortly after contact – its ability to learn and remember where to find pollen will be detrimentally impacted. That means this important beneficial will struggle to find important food sources. Need I mention the rippling effect of a lack of pollination for our food-producing plants?
I completely understand that mosquitoes can make spending time outdoors a misery, and they can transmit dangerous diseases to humans. I just strongly encourage you to pay close attention before you ever hire one of these services. There are some services which use Bti – Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis.
BtI will only impact the larvae of mosquitoes, fungus gnats and blackflies. It’s the bacteria used in mosquito dunks. It doesn’t affect other species, pollute water or harm bird populations. If any product can truly be labeled eco-friendly and safe, it’s Bti. I urge you to reconsider hiring a company that uses anything else.
More on Mosquito Spraying
Thanks, Joe! And from the UMaryland Extension I learned that:
Spraying insecticides to control mosquitoes in your yard can be very harmful to pollinators. Read Potential impact of mosquito and nuisance insect sprays on pollinators, from Michigan State University.
Area-wide sprays or foggers are only effective temporarily, lasting 1-3 weeks depending on the chemical and the weather conditions. They do not prevent, or protect you from, new adult mosquitoes flying in from surrounding areas after sprays are applied. Repeated spraying of the same chemical can lead to insect resistance to the insecticide.
If you are having a private company apply an insecticide to control mosquitoes around your home, ask which chemical they are going to use and for a copy of the chemical label.
And on the State of Maryland website:
A Note About Non-Target Organisims: We are very concerned about the effects of our activities on non-target organisms, like honeybees and bats. We only conduct truck mounted spraying or misting at night. Bees are not active at night.
I also googled “mosquito spraying Maryland” and found NO services that reveal the ingredients of their sprays on their website, despite the many who claim they’re safe and natural. My request for more information has, so far, yielded nothing but a refusal to answer without calling them for a quote.
Joe’s 9 Other Pet Peeves
If, like me, you love pet peeve lists, I’ve kept you waiting too long already for Joe’s full list. Here ya go:
1 *how do I kill it?
2 blindly adding fertilizer
3 poor lawn management
4 eco-friendly mosquito services
5 garden soil filled with garbage
6 poor planting practices
7 mulch volcanoes
8 dyed mulch
9 instant gratification
10 tree topping.*
*Asterisks indicate Joe’s TOP pet peeves.
Great list, right?!!!