West Nile, Zika, Triple E. As the weather warms, we’ll all be hearing more about how to protect ourselves from insect-borne diseases but before you jump to spray your yards with chemical solutions and support municipal spraying programs you should be aware of the effects these methods have on important pollinators such as honey bees and wild bees.
Spraying grounds and aerial areas have questionable efficacy and can also harm non-target insects such as pollinators who are already facing challenges.
More than 44 percent of honey bee hives have been lost in recent years and insecticides, like neonicotinoids, which are widely used in agriculture, as well as pyrethroid and organophosphates used in public health mosquito control programs have been identified as being toxic to bees.
Insecticides used in mosquito abatement programs include permethrin, malathion, naled, phenothrin, and pyrethrin. The programs use ultralow volume sprays that kill adult mosquitoes and other non-targeted insects that come in contact with the mist but they don’t affect mosquito larvae and thus must be used repeatedly once the larvae hatch. Studies also show that mosquitoes are able to develop resistance to insecticides. The World Health Organization has noted growing resistance among mosquitoes to pyrethroid, organochlorine, organophosphate and carbamate insecticides.
And while many programs will spray at dusk, bees are still active at that hour. Pesticides used in spraying will leave a residue on vegetation, water, soil and hives that can last for months and continue to expose non-targeted insects and pollinators. The pesticides are also absorbed into nectar and have long half-lives in soil and water, notes Beyond Pesticides, a D.C. based non-profit.
There are safe steps you can take to control the mosquito population and keep yourself safe from bites without harming pollinators:
- Use a natural mosquito repellant such as lemon eucalyptus
- Wear long sleeve shirts and pants with light coloring
- Remove standing water from your yard and immediate environs including buckets, gutters, tarps and tires.
- Remove leaf piles where mosquitoes breed
- Cut back overgrown vegetation
- Make sure screens and doors are in good shape without holes to keep mosquitoes out of your home.
- Encourage bats, birds, and frogs which are natural mosquito predators. (Read our story on how to become frog-friendly here.)
- When sitting outside, use a large fan to keep mosquitoes away.
For more on the importance of pollinators and insects, read our post here. And follow Friends of Animals efforts to help one community become pesticide free on the Pesticide Free Rowayton Facebook page.