West Nile Spraying Is Killing More than Just Mosquitoes, and Local Foodies Want it to Stop

Categories: Environment

mosquito.jpg
Flickr/Josh*m
We want to kill the mosquitoes, but we don't want to kill the bees. Is it possible for Dallas health officials to process those two competing ideas in their heads at once? Let's hope so.

Last year, Dallas sprayed an insecticide that killed everything -- the mosquitoes and the bees alike, according to honeybee experts. You should care because honeybees are responsible for pollinating two thirds of the crops that we eat (a helpful equation: bees = food). During last year's war that Dallas waged against nasty West Nile mosquitoes, thousands of bees were also killed by the pesticides the city sprayed, according to Brandon and Susan Pollard, the founders of The Texas Honeybee Guild. And scientists say that the epidemic of Colony Collapse Disorder in general is partly caused by pesticide use in the U.S.

Now, The Texas Honeybee Guild has joined a group of more than 40 local restaurant owners, entomologists, doctors and environmental groups in writing an open letter to the Dallas County Commissioners, asking that officials refrain from using adult insecticides to target mosquitoes. They point to a study by a Cornell researcher who found that less than .001 percent of insecticides hit their intended target. And a CDC study from last year found that mosquito populations have actually increased in places where spraying occurred.

Our own Jim Schutze raised similar concerns about Dallas' spraying campaign last year, after Dr. David Bellinger of the Harvard School of Public Health warned that pesticides can also mess up of developing brains of young human children, causing "intellectual deficits and abnormal behavior."

While Dallas has also tried attacking the mosquito problem in less toxic ways, that's only been the cherry on top of the poison, as city officials are continuing to push for more and more pesticides.

Dallas County officials announced just a few days ago that they want to increase the amount of insecticide they're spraying in Dallas to "the maximum allowed by law." That's a problem, because environmentalists say the law is stupid. As we noted earlier, public health authorities are already exempt from a host of restrictions normally applied to pesticides.

Now, this new anti-insecticide coalition, which includes the owners of trendy local restaurants and the president of the Greater Dallas Restaurant Association, is asking Dallas to put the brakes on such pesticide crazy talk. Instead, they recommend that Dallas go after mosquitoes with a substance called Bti larvicide. That same substance is currently being used by the hippies in charge of the state of Massachusetts, who say that larvicides are "a natural bacterium found in soil and water that is nontoxic to people, fish, birds, bees, and most insect species other than mosquito larvae."

But will Dallas officials adapt to the times, or cover their ears and keep on spraying the old-fashioned toxic stuff? Last year, even NPR dismissed concerns Dallasites raised about insecticides, citing experts who said that insecticides "have become much safer for everything and everyone involved." We can think of a Harvard researcher who would disagree.

Open Letter Business Community Leaders Safe Effective Mosquito Abatement 2013 by Amy Silverstein

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18 comments
mikeyroll
mikeyroll

Future generations, if they are still here, will look back and laugh that we used such toxic chemicals so prevalently because they were "safe". It took the CDC 20 years after the first study proving smoking caused cancer for them to officially make a statement. Follow the money.

whocareswhatithink
whocareswhatithink

What about Wasp's...I get lots of wasp nests every year, if they kill wasps, they can spray directly over my house

doublecheese
doublecheese

I'm all for bees as much as the next guy.  I love the honey.  I like that they pollinate 2/3 of our crops.  The problem is, something close to zero percent (I'll allow for up to 0.5% of food that comes from back yard gardens, and I think that's generous) of those crops bees pollinate for our food are growing anywhere near where they are spraying.  So bees = food in places other than a giant sprawling Metroplex that doesn't produce crops.

Americano
Americano

When the bees are gone, so are the plants, and we are not far behind.

Michael A Fox
Michael A Fox

Thats right DO, lets make jokes about killing off the bee's. After all they only polinated the food we need to survive.

John1073
John1073

Local politician brain: A few people died? Spray and kill all living things! Wait, what? That kills bees and destroys our food sources? Meh. We have Brawndo. It's got electrolytes. It's got what plants crave.

schermbeck
schermbeck

Sorry, but "trust us, we know what we're doing" went out of style around the second or third nuke meltdown/massive oil spill/ drug recall/ product ban.

hilllbillle
hilllbillle

my fucking beehive died this year. thanks assholes.

ruddski
ruddski

Not gonna happen, someone at city hall has probably already spent the kickback on the insecticide .

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

Some of the bees are now running around with two heads and one leg.

Montemalone
Montemalone topcommenter

Who's brother-in-law works for the pesticide company?

Or does JWP have equity?

Mark Wootton
Mark Wootton

@doublecheese This isn't just about backyard gardens. The Pollards lost a huge percentage of the Bees that provide their livelihood. Bees that are raised where they are spraying. Not too mention, bees need all the help they can get. This isn't an issue to treat flippantly just because we're discussing spraying within the County. 

In any case, why would you defend a practice that harms beneficial insects, while apparently failing at it's intended cause? A practice that's supposed to defend us from a disease that should not warrant the fear it produces, no less. As stated in the letter, there are more effective treatments that are derived from less harmful compounds, do not cause so much collateral damage, and may be much more effective. 

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@mcdallas nice, also its is now Zoli's which according to FB had a not so grand opening.  He will fix it though, and I cant wait to try it

doublecheese
doublecheese

@Mark Wootton @doublecheese Sorry, I don't know "The Pollards".   I'm sorry they lost their bees.  I don't know or care if spraying is effective against West Nile Virus.  It's just wrong and sensationalism to imply that spraying over areas that don't produce food has any measurable effect on our food supply.  Because it doesn't.

jenny379
jenny379

Have you read the letter? It's signed by a wide array of stakeholders concerned about a wide array of effects, with the effects to local grown food being just one of many, yet still an important one given our local food to table movement. This lette has leading chefs, restaurants and the president of the localRestaurant association signing becausethey are concerned about this impact. They are buying local food that supports the locaHave you read the letter? It's signed by a wide array of stakeholders concerned about a wide array of effects, with the effects to local grown food being just one of many, yet still and important one given our local food to table movement. You have leading chefs, restaurants and the president of the local

Restaurant association saying they are concerned about this impact. They are buying local food that supports the local grower, the local food supplier and the local restaurant. Local food grocers are popping up across the metroplex. When you have enough local food to drive multiple local grocers, restaurants, food businesses and food coops, you are talking about more than change in the bucket. But the biggest concern is how all the impacts to our environment, food supply, and Eco system affect overall public health, which is the heart of the letter and something you ignore. This article also doesn't just talk about food but how bees tie into our bee supply, whin ties into our food supply. It also talks about more direct public health impacts in terms of the health risks posed by exposure to the pesticides, particularly in children. You suggest the story has an imbalanced sensational slant when its actually your comment that is imbalanced in its hyper focus on one aspect that is part of an complicated web of impacts on the entire ecosystem. l grower, the local food supplier and the local restaurant. Local food grocers are pooping up across the metroplex. When you have enough local food to drive multiple local grocers, restaurants, food businesses and food coops, you are talking about more than change in the bucket. But the biggest concern is how all the impacts to our environment, food supply, and Eco system affect overall public health, which is the heart of the letter and something you ignore. This article also doesn't just talk about food but how bees tie into our bee supply, whin ties into our food supply. It also talks about more direct public health impacts in terms of the health risks posed by exposure to the pesticides, particularly in children. You suggest the story has an imbalanced sensational slant when its actually your comment that is hyper focused on one aspect that is part of an complicated web of impacts on the entire ecosystem.

jenny379
jenny379

Actually "double cheese," you don't seem to know the Dallas food to table movement that supports our restaurant industry, which is one of the distinguishing features of Dallas and a key part of our economy. Much of the food utilized by top chefs here is grown locally. Local organic farmers like Eden Organics is within Dallas county and spent last summer desperately trying to cover crops and protect the food that ends up on our tables. D magazine did a story last summer on all the local farmers, bee keepers and agri businesses that were affected by the spraying last summer. The Observer just did a cover piece on Eat the Yard, which is another local food supplier that provides local food to local restaurants and also a recent signer of this letter. A large number of the signers of the letter are in some way involved with the local food business. This is anything but sensational. This is a very real consequence of spraying. And one of just many.. and one that is especially Important given that our restaurant industry is one of the defining features of Dallas and our economy. It's hard to really grasp the complicated multi layered effects of spraying if you admit from the start you don't care about some of the most concerning ones, such as the ineffacy and health risks of trying to control mosquitoes with adulticides.

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