Farm Press Blog

Opposition to mosquito control misguided

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• West Nile virus is deadly disease. • City governments spraying to control disease-carrying mosquitoes. • Opposition to pesticides misguided.

We’ve had swarms of hungry mosquitoes in our yard this summer. On evenings when temperatures moderated enough to enjoy a few minutes checking on the impatiens, the pitiful tomatoes or the thinning bermudagrass or firing up the grill to barbeque some ribs, we dared not venture outside without spraying ourselves with insect repellant or lighting those citronella candles.

The few times we neglected to apply proper precautions, we paid with itchy bumps and an occasional feeling of unease, wondering if that last bite could have transmitted the West Nile virus.

So far, we’ve escaped that vile disease. Many others in North Texas have not been as fortunate. More than a dozen in the region have died. Several hundred have been sick and a friend informed me today that a good friend of his has suffered paralysis from West Nile virus.

So I’ve been more than a little surprised—or maybe not—that so many North Texas residents have objected strongly over city governments spraying to kill mosquitoes. Maybe not because anytime anyone decides to spray a pesticide in an urban setting, protestors will come out of the woodwork to complain.

Odd that folks would take to task a government trying to protect them from a known menace, a vector that can transmit a deadly disease, complaining about use of some of the least toxic products available and at rates and times that target mosquitoes and pose scant hazard to humans or non-target species.

Some have argued against the pesticides in favor of organic options, garlic and such. Some say citizens must protect themselves—clean up their yards, eliminate breeding sites, wearing long sleeves and staying inside. Not sure what the organic answer to insect repellants would be—maybe garlic. Don’t know about mosquitoes but an abundance of garlic will keep me out of your personal space.

I understand that some people take issue with pesticide use, regardless of toxicity, regardless of target species, regardless of circumstance. To those of us who are accustomed to seeing pesticides used often, and safely, that view is difficult to understand. In some cases, I think, the reaction may be based on fear; in others, it’s based on misunderstanding or on organizational dogma. But West Nile virus kills people, usually the most vulnerable—the young, the elderly, the ones in ill health. If we have the means to reduce the risk it would be criminal not to take action.

It still makes sense to take personal precautions. We have several cans of insect repellant just outside the back door. We have those stinky candles. I check almost every day for standing water. We don’t spend as much time in the yard as we probably would if we weren’t averse to providing blood meals to mosquitoes. With triple-digit heat, staying inside has not been much of a sacrifice. But lately, with a few evenings in the high 70-degree range, sitting on the patio of an evening is much more tempting. I encourage the City of Denton to get rid of as many of these biting pests as possible.

The stakes are high. More than 460 cases of West Nile virus have been reported in Texas so far this year. At last count, 18 deaths were attributed to the mosquito-transmitted disease in the state. Spray the mosquitoes. West Nile is not just an annoying itch; it’s deadly.

 

 

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