Friday, August 17, 2012

Battleing West Nile and Staying Green

Due to an outbreak of West Nile virus in Dallas County that has had nearly 200 cases of human infection and 10 deaths, the city is conducting the first aerial spraying of a pesticide in the city since 1966. There are people who are all for the spraying, just kill all the mosquetos with little concern for what else will be killed.

Mariana Green, who writes regularly for The Dallas Morning News (DMN) about gardening and backyard chickens, expressed considerable concern about the spraying and outlined in Thursday's column what she is doing to try to protect her chickens and the beneficial insects such as bees. At a time when the bee population has been on a drastic decrease, do we really want to kill thousands more?

Photo courtesy of

 The biggest concern for Mariana, beyond the safety of her chickens is the fact that the healthy ecosystem she has created over the past 28 years will become toxic overnight. In addition to covering her chicken coop with tarps, she is covering as many shrubs and plants as she can, hoping to keep the toxins from the spray off. She is also trying to figure out a way to protect two feral cats that she has been feeding. The main pesticide in the spray is permethrin, which is toxic to cats, so the wild cats have to find shelter. Domestic cats should be kept indoors until the spraying is over.

People like Howard Garrett, an organic gardener and also a DMN columnist, asked  the Dallas City Council not to approve the spraying, encouraging alternative ways for people to be safe.
  • Avoid going out at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants
  • Rubbing exposed skin with a fabric softener sheet repels mosquitoes
  • Eliminate standing water on your property
That last suggestion is hard to comply with for folks who are using rain barrels for irrigation to save water.  I have several around my property and have only had to water with a hose a few times this summer, so I do not want to dump all those containers of rain water. A solution is to use Mosquito Dunks. They can be used in all types of standing water sites where mosquito larvae grow before becoming adults and have no poisonous chemicals and are harmless to other living things.

Proponents of the spraying put forth the argument that human life is more important than insect or animal life, and that is true. However, they forget that killing the bees is endangering human life. If we lose bees, we lose the natural pollinators that help produce the food that feeds the humans. A scientific study, written about in the New York Times by Carl Zimmer, indicates that the use of pesticides has paid a major role in the decline of the bee population over the last twenty years since the new pesticide,  neonicotinoids, was introduced.

It's time to stop these sort-sighted responses to issues and problems and think about the long-term effects. It is also time for people to think about ways of taking care of themselves instead of insisting that some government entity jump up to protect them.

Now for some fun from my favorite comic strip, Pickles. Earl is on a recliner and his grandson, Nelson comes up asking, "Can you take me to the park, Grandpa?"

Earl: "I'm kind of busy right now."

Nelson: "What are you doing?"

Earl: "Contemplating the meaning of life."

Nelson: "Have you tried Googling it?"


LD Masterson said...

Whenever I hear the argument that human life is more important than animal (or insect) life, it boggles my mind. Don't people understand that we can't exist without the other species that live on this planet with us? Will people only realize that when it's too late?

Maryannwrites said...

I don't think people will realize, LD. Too many folks are self-absorbed and it is all about them. Take care of me and to heck with the rest of the world. There is so much short-sightedness in so many aspects of business, government and society that it is sad.