We want to kill the mosquitoes, but we don't want to kill the bees. Is it possible for Dallas health officials to process those two competing ideas in their heads at once? Let's hope so.
Last year, Dallas sprayed an insecticide that killed everything -- the mosquitoes and the bees alike, according to honeybee experts. You should care because honeybees are responsible for pollinating two thirds of the crops that we eat (a helpful equation: bees = food). During last year's war that Dallas waged against nasty West Nile mosquitoes, thousands of bees were also killed by the pesticides the city sprayed, according to Brandon and Susan Pollard, the founders of The Texas Honeybee Guild. And scientists say that the epidemic of Colony Collapse Disorder in general is partly caused by pesticide use in the U.S.
Now, The Texas Honeybee Guild has joined a group of more than 40 local restaurant owners, entomologists, doctors and environmental groups in writing an open letter to the Dallas County Commissioners, asking that officials refrain from using adult insecticides to target mosquitoes. They point to a study by a Cornell researcher who found that less than .001 percent of insecticides hit their intended target. And a CDC study from last year found that mosquito populations have actually increased in places where spraying occurred.
Our own Jim Schutze raised similar concerns about Dallas' spraying campaign last year, after Dr. David Bellinger of the Harvard School of Public Health warned that pesticides can also mess up of developing brains of young human children, causing "intellectual deficits and abnormal behavior."
While Dallas has also tried attacking the mosquito problem in less toxic ways, that's only been the cherry on top of the poison, as city officials are continuing to push for more and more pesticides.
Dallas County officials announced just a few days ago that they want to increase the amount of insecticide they're spraying in Dallas to "the maximum allowed by law." That's a problem, because environmentalists say the law is stupid. As we noted earlier, public health authorities are already exempt from a host of restrictions normally applied to pesticides.
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Now, this new anti-insecticide coalition, which includes the owners of trendy local restaurants and the president of the Greater Dallas Restaurant Association, is asking Dallas to put the brakes on such pesticide crazy talk. Instead, they recommend that Dallas go after mosquitoes with a substance called Bti larvicide. That same substance is currently being used by the hippies in charge of the state of Massachusetts, who say that larvicides are "a natural bacterium found in soil and water that is nontoxic to people, fish, birds, bees, and most insect species other than mosquito larvae."
But will Dallas officials adapt to the times, or cover their ears and keep on spraying the old-fashioned toxic stuff? Last year, even NPR dismissed concerns Dallasites raised about insecticides, citing experts who said that insecticides "have become much safer for everything and everyone involved." We can think of a Harvard researcher who would disagree.