The great mosquito debate

The great mosquito debate

Every spring, a handful of neighbors in our community ask for recommendations on companies that spray to control mosquitoes. And every spring, a vocal group of neighbors begs them not to do it.

Mosquito control services for homeowners have proliferated in my area in the past decade. And why not? Who wouldn’t want to spend the nicest six months of the year relaxing on the patio, firing up the grill, and shooting the breeze? Who really wants to be infected with West Nile Virus or the other diseases that mosquitoes carry?

The question is, do those mosquito sprays harm bees, butterflies, moths and other insect life? Is it really worth it considering the cost to wildlife in your yard? It’s hard to know the answer when so many competing studies and anecdotes are out there. I’ve found some government-funded studies that concluded mosquito control had little effect on bees, but the scientists made certain spraying occurred at recommended levels after dark. I wonder if the local companies that offer “same-day service” to homeowners show up after 8 or 9 p.m, well after bees have gone to bed for the night? Especially when the Asian tiger mosquitoes that live here pester us during the day instead?

And how does spraying at night affect moths? I couldn’t find any research on whether mosquito control harms moths, but one study in south Florida found that mosquito control chemicals harmed the butterfly population. The chemicals harmed both adult butterflies and the caterpillars eating contaminated leaves. The jury is also out on whether fireflies are harmed by night-time spraying. No one knows for certain, but some believe this soft-bodied insect and its larvae could be harmed as well.

We are seeing an overall decrease in fireflies, bees, butterflies, and other insect populations in this country, so I would advise thinking twice about spraying your yard. Try to remove all standing water and use Mosquito Dunks in rain barrels and drainage ditches. If you feel you must spray, you could try the organic garlic sprays that some companies offer, but they can also repel the “good bugs.” It’s best to be cautious as any insecticide or repellent has the potential to impact all wildlife in your yard.

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