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Community Perspective

Think twice before spraying for mosquitoes: It’s affecting more than you think

In and around Fairbanks, honeybees are dropping like flies. One of the very creatures that is tied to human existence is being poisoned and killed by mosquito sprayers. People are actually entering into a paid contract to have companies spray their yards for mosquitoes. These companies are using chemicals that not only kill mosquitoes but also honeybees and other insects. They are even poisoning songbirds and aquatic life once they get into the water supply. The spray companies will tell you that their chemicals are safe for bees. They are not.

The chemicals used by these companies include bifenthrin (sometime under the name Talsar P), deltamethrin, permethrin, lambda-cyhalothrin and cyfluthrin. The material safety data sheets for these chemicals are online. The sprayers won’t freely provide the information to you, so look them up. The research is already there on the adverse effects these chemicals have on animals, including humans.

Some countries have banned the use of these chemicals for not only killing honey bees but also for possible links between pesticide exposure and autism, ADHD and other neurological disorders as well as harmful physiological effects to the human body. The companies’ employees will wear protective clothing when spraying/fogging, follow hazmat protocol if they are directly exposed, and they’ll suggest your beehives be covered with a sheet in order to try to prevent exposure. These sprayed pesticides land on and dry on the local flora and fauna. Any creature that comes in contact with something that’s been sprayed makes contact with these chemicals. That includes us.

After the company sprays your yard (and maybe it’ll drift into the neighbor’s yard, too) they don’t wait to see the aftereffects. Beekeepers all over Alaska can tell you what happens afterward. Some bees instantly die. Some convulse before dying with their tongues out (a sign of poison). Still others move around as if they’re intoxicated and fall over. Others never find their way back to the hive. Insects that help pollinate your gardens and flower beds disappear. So do the birds that feed off those insects.

Once a hive has been poisoned, beekeepers are out the cost of the colonies they’ve purchased and the income they would earn from selling the honey, wax, pollen and propolis made by the bees. This can easily surpass thousands of dollars. Our mosquitoes are a pain in our butts, but they don’t carry West Nile virus, Zika, dengue or any other mosquito-transmitted disease. They are an inconvenience to us. We’ve been smacking and zapping them forever. When did Fairbanksans become so helpless and naive to the point that they’re willing to pay a company to spray poison around their homes regardless of the impact?

Lisa Hay operates Happy Creek Farm, LLC in Fairbanks.

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