[permaculture] Mosquito article

Claude Genest genest at together.net
Fri Mar 8 16:27:00 EST 2002

Thanks to all who answered my call for info. Here's a preliminary draft of
the article I 'm working on as a result. Disseminate/use freely.... There is
info here, beyond the regional stuff at the beginning, that I think may be
of use to others this summer...

NO To Mosquito Spraying In Grand Isle County !
By: Claude Genest - Green Mountain Permaculture.

      There is a proposal on the docks to spray all of grand Isle County for
The reason given at Town Meeting for this draconian measure is not,
signifigantly, disease
but rather "because mosquitos are responsible for the decrease in visitors
to our State Parcs".

The authors of this statement remain a mystery and no evidence was provided
to support it. Worse, it flies in the face of common sense.  The historic
low value of the Canadian dollar, we know, is the real culprit behind the
decrease in all sectors of tourism for this part of the state, as numerous
studies show.
It also contradicts Vermon't stated goals to reduce pesticide use as
exemplified in act 141.

Equally disturbing is the fact that the proposal to spray was made without
any knowledge of which chemicals were to be used. Nevertheless, not knowing
was no impediment to assurances being made as to their "safety".

Spraying Makes it Worse.

We know now empirically, after fifty years of spraying all manner of
biocide, that the "Bigger Hammer approach", as it applies to the delicate
balance of nature, simply doesn't work.
The fact thay we are now suggesting spraying entire counties is proof enough
of this, but we can also find simillar results in agriculture and medicine.
Years of over-prescribing anti-biotics to people and livestock have resulted
in new strains of "super-bugs" immune to all known anti-biotics. Likewise in
agriculture, fifty years of intensive spraying have resulted in more not
less pests and crop damage.

The reason for this is simple. First of all, pesticides like antibiotics, do
not discern the "good bugs" from the "bad bugs". It kills them all. However,
since the number and kinds of good bugs far outweighs the numbers and kinds
of bad bugs, the result is that there are decreased numbers of good bugs to
eat the bad bugs. Therefore, spraying literally creates the very conditions
it purports to redress !
Secondly, since you can't kill them all, the ones that survive develop
immunities which they very quickly pass on to their hugely numerous
offspring. As a result, by spraying, or over prescribing antibiotics today,
you decrease their effectiveness for tommorow, when we may really need it.
In other words, the less we spray today when mosquitos are a mere nuisance,
the more effective will the spray be tommorow when Global Warming brings
diseases ever northward. ( of course this presumes admitting that man
actually is repsonsible for the warming of the planet, something our culture
seems uniquely loathe to do).

Third, poisoning large bodies of water does nothing for the mosquitos real
breeding grounds, the stagnant puddles of water that collect in your
gutters, your discarded tires, etc.
Although big bodies of water would seem to logically allow for more
mosquitos to be bred, keep in mind that they also allow for mosquitoes'
predators, while your gutter provides safe incubation.

Sensational Headlines

The spectre of last year's West Vile Virus still hangs over many of us
today. But follow up studies reveal the scare-mongering that took place.  In
New York city for example, of the four people reported to have died from the
disease three were taking immunosuppressant drugs for cancer, and the fourth
was HIV positive. Indeed. according to the Center for Disease Prevention,
the odds of A) being bit by an infected mosquito are extemely long, and
b)the odds of contracting the disease, longer still. Most importantly
however was their finding that people with normal immune systems  have no
problem combating the infection.  To put those four deaths in perspective
over 110,000 people are hospitalized each year for the common flu which is
responsible for some 20,000 deaths a year !

Spraying Poison is Never Safe

Manufacturers of these sprays claim that the only side-effects of these
sprays is coughing, itching, watery-eyes, and stuffy/runny noses. Common
sense here reminds us that symptoms are NOT effects.  The real damage won't
be known till years later when it is  difficult if not impossible to prove
"direct causation" ( this is why Cigarette company execs could testify that
cigarette's link to cancer was "inconclusive").

It is illegal in many states to use the word "safe" in describing ANY
pesticide, and for good reason. Make no mistake: these chemicals are poisons
designed to kill indiscrimminately and a poison by any other name is still a
poison. The differences in the genetic makeup between a bug, an animal and a
person are much less than we may like to believe and chemical actions on
biology are very consistent, only the scale, and therefore the immediacy of
the effects really changes.

Futhermore, in a testament to the lobbying pull of giant corporations like
Monsanto, testing is left to the manufacturers themselves and not by
independednt, objective third parties. The conflict of interest in this is
self-evident and to many, staggering.

Worse, the use of the word "safe" is itself terribly misleading. A
determination of safe is reached by feeding rats the chemicals or exposing
them to their vapors. When only 50 % of the rats die, the substance is
classified as safe !! Every report that classifies mosquitoe sprays as safe
also includes findings of tumors, developmental problems, miscarriages,
deformities, immune deficiencies etc. etc.  But , as long as "only" 50 % of
the rats get these symptoms, the manufaturer can still legally trumpet their
product as being "relatively safe".

Organic Alternatives

So, does not spraying mean we are powerless to change things ? Not at all.

We can begin by learning a little something of the mosquito's habits. First
of all, they are not everywhere all the time. They are in some places
sometimes. My personal experience is of them having a 5-8 sort of "cocktail
hour" , (which I'm happy to leave to them while indulging in one of my
own.... ) Furthermore, the intelligence of the body knows to react. As a
result being repeatedly bitten, it would appear, one develops a sort of

Secondly, we can get a lot more bang for our buck by taking responsibility
for our surroundings. Don't leave trash about that can collect water for
them to breed in. Clean out your gutters.

Third, don't rigorously mow all of your property. If there are areas of
taller grass/brush/shrubs, not only will you leave a place for mosquitoes to
live and eat, you leave a place for their predators to live and do some
eating of their own !
Conversely, by removing all habitat and sustenance, you can be sure that the
evolutionnary winner that the mosquito is will not only survive, but will
make a bee-line to the only available source of food there is: YOU !
In other words, take responsibility for restoring natural systems on your
properties: A functioning wetland ecology harboring dragonflies, daddy
long-legs, water beetles, frogs, fish, and all manner of songbird will do
more to control mosquito populations than any spraying ever could. Best of
all it'll  do so sustainably, safely and for generations to come.

Lastly, try turning some of the lawn near your home over to mosquito
repellent plantings. We know that citronella has some effect in this regard,
follows then that other lemon scented plants would do likewise. Try Lemon
Balm, lemon mint, lavender etc. You may not repel mosquitos to perfection,
but you'll sure make some refreshing iced teas !
And finally, the best plant may be yet another of those pesky "weeds" .
Studies by the American Chemical Society reveal that the oil of common
catnip is ten times more effective at repelling mosquitos than the toxic
chemical DEET ! And since no one is yet maufacturing this organic
alternative, one of our lucky readers may even turn this into a million
dollar idea....

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