Has any one else noticed a sharp decline in pollinators and other flying insects on the days after Pasco Country Mosquito Control fogs our neighborhood?
Two Fridays ago during the evening (May 22) a fog truck drove up and down all streets in the East Madison neighborhood. The fog seemed particularly thick – but that is not the point.
What struck me was the virtual absence of all flying insects the next day (Saturday, May 23). I have noticed this before, but I was particularly aware of it on the 23rd because I was outside most of the day working in the community gardens. I saw one butterfly – a Gulf Fritillary. What makes this remarkable is the large number of flying insects in the garden the day before – in fact, everyday for the past few weeks.
We have been very pleased to have such an abundance of pollinators, and we are just as happy to see the other winged insects as well. The abundance and diversity is a sign of ecological health for our gardens and the entire neighborhood.
Our gardens, yards, and groves in this part of the East Madison neighborhood are home to honey bees and bumble bees, numerous types of dragonflies, equally diverse types of wasps, lady bugs, flying beetles, and of course plenty of butterflies and moths – including the stunning and seldom seen Sphinx Moth. In short, we have a rather impressive insect menagerie here in the East Madison community.
Those of us in the East Madison Growers Club have pledged to eliminate the use of pesticides outside – unless there is an emergency. This is one of the reasons for the increase in pollinators and other insects in our neighborhood. It really does not take much work to attract beautiful and helpful insects. Essentially, all it takes is to stop using insecticides, especially those that not OMRI certified, and those that are broad spectrum. Broad spectrum means “kill ’em all.” If you must use insecticides, try not to use them outside the home, and please use only OMRI certified insecticides designed for the specific insect you desire to kill. Finally, please by all means do not use neonicotinoid poisons. Here are a couple of good sites about these destructive insecticides: http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2012/01/bee-killing-pesticides-not-just-corn-fields and http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2012/03/bayer-pesticide-bees-studies
This is what makes the fog truck experience so troubling. After years of working with others to establish organic and natural systems that are home to a wide variety of insects, could it be that Pasco Country Mosquito Control is devastating the entire ecosystem on a regular basis – with a host of beneficial insects being poisoned? In an effort to temporarily reduce one insect (the mosquito) is it possible that we are killing off other valuable and beautiful insects? Judging from the absence of all but one butterfly and the complete absence of very other flying insect the day after the poison fog was pumped through our community, that possibility must be considered.
Now, we can be pretty certain that Pasco Country Mosquito Control will deny that fogging kills or damages anything other than mosquitoes. So, we can factor that denial in right now. But let’s judge for ourselves, and check the skies the day after the fogger passes by our homes – and report what we see or do not see.
Please join me in checking for flying insects on the day after the fogger rolls through your neighborhood. I hope you find some.
Dell deChant is the chair of the New Port Richey Environmental Committee, a community activist, and a professor at the University of South Florida.