Letter to the Editor: Yet another report on chemical warfare in Meeker

Dear Editor:
Meeker’s celebratory Fourth of July spraying has resumed. I have fresh data on the results of that spraying but no new conclusions. I might as well recycle the report from 2017—or from 2002 or any of the intervening years.
With my wife’s help, I sampled insects knocked down by aerial spraying ahead of the Fourth. We’re not directly on the flight path, but insecticide drifts to us on the breeze from the flight paths along the river and Sulfur Creek. We counted insects that fell on a two-meter square sheet, spread on the ground under vegetation for half an hour. That’s a standard collection method.
A control sample before spraying found 15 leaf hoppers, five gnats, and one mosquito, all alive. The sample immediately after aerial spraying found 34 gnats, 14 dipterids, four beetles, two weevils, two plant bugs, two leaf hoppers, one brachonid wasp, one lady bug larva, one halictid bee and one andrenid bee. All dead.
There were no mosquitoes in the after-spray collection. They came out the following evening, though. I counted two bites in a 10-minute exposure, six bites in the evening two days after the spray.

Just a few thoughts for the obituaries. Brachonid wasps prey on aphids and other garden pests. So do lady bugs. The two little bees you wouldn’t notice unless you’re looking close. But they’re among the critical pollinators for our wildflowers. And they’re endangered by habitat loss and competition with commercial bees. Against Univar Chemical Corp., they don’t stand a chance.
Scale this count up to the numbers of dead insects all along the spray paths through town. As a minimum estimate, we knocked down four million beneficial or otherwise harmless insects. Certainly the spray killed some adult mosquitoes, just not at our sample site. As in years past, aerial spray with adulticides kills very few target insects (mosquitoes and other pests) in comparison with the slaughter of harmless and beneficial insects. And, as usual, the mosquito population bounces right back, within a day or two, with the next larva hatch. Just like in years past.
Town and County need to adopt a sensible and effective insect pest management program. The present plan is neither. It causes far more harm than benefit, and it does not control the mosquito population (even assuming that population is more than just a nuisance). In the interval until our local governments adopt an integrated pest management plan, and as an essential component of that plan if it ever occurs, individuals can protect themselves with some basic measures. Drain or frequently change standing water around the home, e.g. in ponds, bird baths, dog bowls, old tires, etc, where mosquito larvae develop. Apply Bti pellets to standing water that can’t be drained. (Bti is a larvacide specific to mosquitoes and harmless to other organisms.) Wear long pants and long sleeves, especially in the evening when mosquitoes are most active. Apply insect repellant containing DEET if you’re out and the critters are a bother. (Other repellants are available, too, but not as effective.)
If you get bit, swat the critter, and keep a tally for the records. See if human reflexes can do a better job controlling mosquitoes than the celebratory chemical mist.
Bob Dorsett, MD
Meeker

16 Comments

  1. I noticed a huge difference after the spraying. Thank you Meeker for providing this service every year, and I look forward to it again next year.

  2. Thank you for your wonderful insight. We’re still blown away by this practice. We spent 25 years in the military living coast to coast, including Alaska and The Keys…all very “wet areas” and we never heard of aerial spraying over a town.

  3. The spraying kills mosquitoes, at best, for 4-5 days. It also kills many beneficial insects. Take responsibility for your own protection by using DEET sprays, removing breeding areas by removing standing water, and protect the environment by using larvalcidal sinks to actually prevent hatches. Spraying has short term benefits and long term harm. We need to be smarter about how lower mosquito numbers. Thanks Doc Bob for being a voice of reason and intelligence.

  4. I was in PA over the 4th – mosquitos galore! My sis sprayed her back yard/patio area with this product and we did great! She did not have much hope with it but with pets & children around she went natural. Give it a try, Walmart!

  5. Thanks for the insightful article and the explanation of the data collection methods. I appreciate the scientific approach to this. Much of what I have heard in favor or in opposition to the spraying has been anecdotal instead of scientific. More than anything, I appreciate continuing a conversation about how we can do better. Let’s not assume (in anything) that we have the best solution. Let’s all constantly strive to do better for the health of ourselves, our friends, our families, our community, and our environment.

  6. Hello, I’m a town board member so let me chime in here. We didn’t spray last year and started on working on finding a better solution. The mosquito control consultant came and gave the Town a presentation of other options for a more comprehensive and effective program. What they thought would be necessary would involve a greater radius than the town boundaries, so this would also involve the county. The estimate for the yearly cost was around $40,000. We ran it by the county commissioners to see if we might collaborate but have not found a way to move forward yet, and don’t have the money in the current Town budget. We did donate some money to public health last year to buy some more traps in order to help them collect more specific data. They have the traps now but are short staffed and need help with that, so maybe some of you would like to volunteer. I had talked with people to get a general idea of the majority of the citizens views on the issue and the majority of the people I was able to chat with were in favor of the spraying, but “not forever” and also wanted us to pursue finding a better plan. This year with all the water we decided as a board that we thought it was in the best interest of the public to spray again instead of do nothing. However included in the discussion and because of the previous work it was implied by some that this is a sort of concession this year and we still want to work toward a better solution. But time flies and if someone doesn’t seriously start pursuing this it will be next summer and we will still be in the same situation. Ans it seems that the people that are concerned about it the most also do not have extra time or resourced to contribute to a better solution. The agenda items are published beforehand, this was open for discussion, but no one from the community showed up for the meeting. I encourage you to check the agendas beforehand and come to the meetings and get involved if there are issues you are concerned with and you want your voice to be heard. I’d also be willing to sit down and chat about things as time allows. Thanks for your consideration and please help us help you build a better community going forward. – Pat Turner

  7. Commenting personally here, not on behalf of the paper – Hello, I’m a town board member so let me chime in here. We didn’t spray last year and started on working on finding a better solution. The mosquito control consultant came and gave the Town a presentation of other options for a more comprehensive and effective program. What they thought would be necessary would involve a greater radius than the town boundaries, so this would also involve the county. The estimate for the yearly cost was around $40,000. We ran it by the county commissioners to see if we might collaborate but have not found a way to move forward yet, and don’t have the money in the current Town budget. We did donate some money to public health last year to buy some more traps in order to help them collect more specific data. They have the traps now but are short staffed and need help with that, so maybe some of you would like to volunteer. I had talked with people to get a general idea of the majority of the citizens views on the issue and the majority of the people I was able to chat with were in favor of the spraying, but “not forever” and also wanted us to pursue finding a better plan. This year with all the water we decided as a board that we thought it was in the best interest of the public to spray again instead of do nothing. However included in the discussion and because of the previous work it was implied by some that this is a sort of concession this year and we still want to work toward a better solution. But time flies and if someone doesn’t seriously start pursuing this it will be next summer and we will still be in the same situation. Ans it seems that the people that are concerned about it the most also do not have extra time or resourced to contribute to a better solution. The agenda items are published beforehand, this was open for discussion, but no one from the community showed up for the meeting. I encourage you to check the agendas beforehand and come to the meetings and get involved if there are issues you are concerned with and you want your voice to be heard. I’d also be willing to sit down and chat about things as time allows. Thanks for your consideration and please help us help you build

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