It is common for areas in the marshes to be sprayed with insecticide—which has now been found in lobsters caught in the Long Island Sound—but this year the government decided to spray inland areas, since the mosquitoes are particularly fierce.
When I discovered that parts of my town were scheduled for spraying I wrote the following letter to the editor of Newsday, “Long Island’s hometown paper.” I also cc’d Suffolk County Vector Control, the official in charge of pest control in the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and my State Senator.
Here is the letter in its entirety. When it was printed in Newsday, August 15, 2012, some of the text was edited.
Dear Newsday Editor,
Recently, the Suffolk County Department of Health decided to spray Scourge® in parts of the Town of Huntington near my home. Being highly allergic to mosquito bites, I am the last person to advocate for them. However, I must protest both aerial and ground spraying of Scourge® (resmethrin and piperonyl butoxide) by Nassau and Suffolk counties with the goal of eliminating adult mosquitoes.
The use of insecticides is a short-term, short-sighted and ineffective attempt to control mosquitoes. Many die, but enough survive so that their offspring evolve to resist and even thrive on the toxins used. (Mosquitoes evolve so quickly because several generations spawn in the course of a single year.)
What Scourge® and Malathion (which was used during the initial West Nile virus scare in 1999) do accomplish, among other hazards, is the poisoning of lobsters [“Mosquito pesticide turning up in lobsters,” Newsday, July 27, 2012], the contamination of organic gardens and the pollution of environmental assets such as the Long Island Sound and eventually our groundwater.
(By the way, “malathion itself is of low toxicity; however, absorption…into the human body readily results in its metabolism to malaoxon, which is substantially more toxic.” [Wikipedia, “Malathion” article.])
I advise and insist Nassau and Suffolk counties, and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, update their mosquito control policies and programs to find safer and more ecologically-compatible solutions. For example, “eliminating mosquito breeding areas can be an extremely effective and permanent way to reduce mosquito populations without resorting to insecticides.” [Wikipedia “Mosquito control” article].
Since most mosquitoes breed in stagnant water, reducing this should be the focus. Here are just a few suggestions:
- Educate homeowners to:
- dispose of unused plastic pools, old tires, or buckets
- clear clogged gutters
- repair leaks around faucets
- replace water in bird baths regularly [Wikipedia “Mosquito control” article]
- stock ponds with fish and other species that eat mosquito larvae
Mosquito control is too urgent to continue the use of ineffective and dangerous methods. Let’s find better solutions to control mosquitoes and preserve our health and environment.
See my next blog to learn the results.