The letter written this week by South Miami Mayor Philip Stoddard -- who is a professor of biology at Florida International University -- expressing outrage at indiscriminate mosquito spraying is grounded both in science and personal observation and investigation.In the early 1960s a mosquito spray truck would make the rounds in the small coastal New England town where we stayed in the summers. I recall its sweet, sickly odor and how sometimes we ran delighted through the fog it left behind. Who knew? A decade later, in the early 1970s, on winter vacations I stayed at the home where my father and mother lived in Marathon in the Florida Keys and would occasionally be woken at night by the drone of an overhead airplane and later the same scent of insecticide would waft through the open window.
The Keys exposed me to entirely different coastal environment. I grew to love immensely the shallow sea grass meadows, the flats and green islands dotting Florida Bay. The Florida Keys backcountry opened my eyes to spectacular demonstrations of biodiversity. Who knew that the early 1970's would be the last moment, in our lifetimes, that the Everglades ecosystem could be viewed -- on certain days -- in its full glory and splendor?
On winter visits to Marathon, one could spot at the north end of the tiny airport (then), DC3's marked "Monroe County Mosquito Control". Later in the 1980's, when I became involved in Monroe County politics and struggles to protect the Keys fragile environmental resources, I learned that no local government agency was better protected or more insulated from outside criticism than the mosquito control board. You could penetrate the equanimity of the county commission but you couldn't touch the people or the mission of the agency that killed the mosquitos.
There was not much evidence at the time, or money to focus on the question that seemed obvious: how had mosquito spraying contributed to the dramatic decline of wildlife and near shore fisheries comprising the tail end of the Everglades ecosystem in the Florida Keys? For example, in the early 1970s, when you drove down US 1 towards Key West, the overhead lines would be literally festooned with carcasses of white herons. You scarcely see white herons any more.
The letter written this week by South Miami Mayor Philip Stoddard -- who is a professor of biology at Florida International University -- expressing outrage at indiscriminate mosquito spraying is grounded both in science and personal observation and investigation.
In his letter, Mayor Stoddard may have found a better way of reaching through to people who mostly experience mosquitos as terrible pests that threaten human life in Florida. In fact, they increasingly do because of emerging mosquito-borne diseases like dengue and chickungunya; diseases that are being carried north from the tropics as a result of a man-made, warming climate.
Mayor Stoddard strikes another chord that resonates. How the world's largest chemical companies have succeeded in marketing chemicals to destroy insects and pests in defiance of common sense: that these highly adaptable species can evolve to develop immunity from chemicals that end up actually causing more harm to us. A business model using human vulnerability as a catalyst for a potent stream of profits.
The real and present danger to us is hubris; that's what indiscriminate chemical spraying of mosquitos represents. The ancient Greeks streamed into amphitheaters in un-airconditioned, open air venues -- probably swatting at mosquitos the same way we do -- to watch the works great dramatists with no benefit of word processors, microphones, or flashlights to guide them safely to their seats.
Our ancestors experienced what we do not: that the outcome of pride, over-confidence in our own works and refusal to entertain alternatives to our own instant gratification can bring down kingdoms, fortunes, and make tragedy from happiness in an instant.
So when you hear that buzzing in your ear, but no butterflies, no squirrels, no bees, insects or birds except ravens and vultures, imagine for a moment that is the soundtrack for our competition with pests, scavenger species and reptiles who survived the last great extinction more than 60 million years ago.
We are not children running with delight behind the mosquito spray truck any more.
Tonight, the county is conducting an aerial spray of our towns with the organophosphate insecticide “naled" (trade name “Dibrom").
This spraying is being done solely to take a temporary swipe at nuisance salt marsh mosquitoes for the short-term comfort of our residents.
This practice has nothing to do with disease control. Just the opposite, it paves the way for diseases to move in without control. With every indiscriminate spraying, disease-carrying mosquito species move one step closer to evolving resistance to organophosphate insecticides, just as some species of mosquitoes have already done with naled and virtually every other insecticide used to date. We need to retain insecticide efficacy for localized use in suppressing arbovirus disease outbreaks, in particular Dengue & Chickungunya, which are moving into our county. To spray large areas is completely irresponsible. Mankind has done this experiment over and over and it comes out the same every time. When do we learn from past mistakes? Ever? South Florida was made safe and habitable primarily through elimination of temporary water sources where mosquitoes breed. Newer complimentary control methods include larvicides and larval growth inhibitors, but nothing works so well as old-fashioned water control.
I have met twice with county officials from the Mosquito Control Division. They have assured me that the insecticides are harmless to butterflies other “non-target” species. When I asked, they could not cite any studies to this effect. I consulted with the experts and found it was not true. Naled has a long history of problems, and evolution of insecticide resistance by mosquitoes is just one consequence of overuse. Here are some things to know about this insecticide:
Naled has been found to be 400-4000 times more toxic to butterflies than to mosquitoes and is believed to have caused the initial decline of the Schauss swallowtail butterfly on Key Largo.
Naled is said to break down relatively quickly. This is true. It breaks down into dichrorvos, which is also an insecticide.
The American Bird Conservancy petitioned the EPA to ban application of naled because of its high toxicity to songbirds.
The Natural Resources Defense Council sued the EPA over the use of nailed.
Naled is no longer used in flea collars because it harmed pets - my own cat fell over when we fitted him with a naled-infused flea collar.
Broward County will not spray naled within two miles of Butterfly World in Coconut Creek.
As an immediate and direct consequence of tonight’s aerial spraying with nailed:
We will lose ~2/3rds of our butterflies and most of their larvae.
Our foliage will be toxic to bees and caterpillars for a day.
Endangered bonneted bats in the affected area will temporarily lose their food supply just as their young are foraging independently. (This action constitutes an unauthorized “taking" under the Endangered Species Act).
Veterans with Gulf war syndrome who venture outside will be exposed to chemicals to which they are already sensitized.
Mayor Gimenez has instructed his staff to notify residents prior to spraying so that they may take any necessary precautions. For County staff to notify select municipal officials at 3:15 pm on a Friday afternoon, just a few hours before spraying, does not give anyone sufficient time to notify our residents.
My Commission has not given our permission for this practice, which FIU toxicologists and UF entomologists and consider environmentally reckless and largely ineffectual at addressing the human mosquito problem. I have repeatedly voiced my objections. Yet the county does it anyway to appease ignorant residents who complain about mosquitoes but don’t understand the adverse consequences of spraying. The practice is no different than doctors prescribing antibiotics for patients with viral infections to make it seem like the doctor is doing something to help, knowing full well that antibiotics are useless on viral infections but promote evolution of antibiotic resistant pathogens to the long term detriment of the patient and the population at large.
As a scientist with a deep background in population biology and evolution, I am more than displeased. I am genuinely angry at what I consider a foolish chemical assault for a temporary convenience with long term negative consequences to our species and many others. Hopefully, on Tuesday night, my City Commission will vote for an ordinance and resolution pair that allow South Miami to opt out of the unnecessary spray regime and reserve insecticide sprays for infrequent localized application in treating outbreaks of emerging arbovirus diseases. I urge you to consider similar measures in your municipalities.
Dr. Philip K. Stoddard
Mayor of South Miami
6130 Sunset Drive
South Miami FL 33143-3209
Begin forwarded message:
From: "Olton, Debbie (CIAO)"
Subject: Truck spray routes for July 19, 20, 21 and aerial spray blocks for July 18, 2014 (Tonight)
Date: July 18, 2014 at 3:48:15 PM EDT
To: "Arias, Ruben J. (DIST 8)"
Cc: "Olton, Debbie (CIAO)"
Please be notified that truck spraying will be performed in the following areas on Friday, Saturday and Sunday morning:
07/19/14 (ONE TRUCK)
1) PORT OF MIAMI
2) From NW 18 ST to NW 13 ST and from NW 1 AVE to NW 3 AVE
3) BAYSIDE-401 BISCAYNE BLVD
4) Brickell Key
07/20/14 (ONE TRUCK)
1) PORT OF MIAMI
2) From SW 9 ST to SW 13 ST and from SW 9 CT to SW 12 AVE
3) From SW 7 AVE to CORAL WAY and from SW 26 RD to SW 31 RD
4 )From SW 17 TER to SW 20 ST and from SW 14 AVE to SW 17 AVE
5) From SW 22 ST to SW 24 ST and from SW 21 AVE to SW 23 AVE
07/21/14 (TWO TRUCKS)
1 From NE 77 ST to NE 69 ST and from NE 6 AVE to NE 10 AVE
2) From NW 83 ST to NW 79 ST and from NW 2 CT to NW 6 AVE
3) From NW 75 ST to NW 68 ST and from NW 5 PL to NW 10 AVE
4) From NW 54 ST to NW 51 ST and from NW 2 AVE to NW 5 AVE
5) From NW 62 ST to NW 58 ST and from NW 14 AVE to NW 17 AVE
6) From NW 57 ST to NW 50 ST and from NW 22 AVE to NW 26 AVE
7) From NW 18 ST to NW 13 ST and from NW 1 AVE to NW 3 AVE
8) FISHER ISLAND
9) PALM ISLAND
10) HIBISCUS ISLAND
In addition an aerial spray mission will be performed tonight (see attached map for areas to be sprayed weather permitting).
Debbie Olton, Knowledge Base Specialist
Miami-Dade 311 – Community Information and Outreach