July 30, 2017 – Snipping and Spraying

Mr. Bonsai is back

Regular listeners know that Dan Kosta has appeared many times on The Mike Nowak Show. He is a horticulturist who works for Vern Goers Greenhouse in Hinsdale, Illinois, and his job there is lot like his job on this radio show–to talk about gardening and answer questions.

He wrote to me recently about the things he’s seeing this year–Viburnum leaf beetle, rose sawfly, nipple galls, and the ever popular Japanese beetles. Lots of  die back on trees and shrubs from winter damage. Spruce needle cast and Diplodia tip blight are taking out trees. Boxwood blight is coming too. Sounds like a lot of fun stuff, eh?

And he loves it when folks ask him questions like why their red, yellow and purple pepper plants are producing only green ones. I’m not even going to tell you the answer to that question because we’re going to talk about it on the show.

But the main reason Dan is with us is to promote the Prairie State Bonsai Society and their annual show, which is part of the Destination Asia Festival at the Morton Arboretum. There are experts and workshops to help you learn about the art, and bonsai and accessories for sale. Last year, I stopped by and actually won a bonsai in a raffle. Dan has had it for safekeeping for the past year (he is “The Snipologist,” you know)…and now I want it back! Unfortunately, I will have to go out to his place, since he’s not actually in the studio today. That’s show biz.

To spray or not to spray mosquitoes…that’s still a question

As you watch the flood waters in northern Illinois subside, you probably don’t want to know that there are more than 60 species of mosquitoes in this state. And it’s cold comfort to know that only four of those species will bite humans. Those species are fondly called “nuisance mosquitoes” and they’re the reason we have areas called mosquito abatement districts.

In Illinois, the Mosquito Abatement District Act was passed in 1927–a full 90 years ago–and today it is sometimes a source of controversy. Some people argue that they aren’t necessary at all, and others wonder if they are a way for citizens to be taxed more than once for the same services.

But the fear of disease is always strong in society. In 1927, the concern was for malaria. In 2017, it is about West Nile Virus and, to a lesser extent, Zika Virus. In fact, the first Illinois case of West Nile Virus was recently reported, and, right on schedule, an announcement about scheduled spraying by the North Shore Mosquito Abatement District went up.

It also went down, when Peggy Malecki, who lives in that region, received a notice from the NSMAD that read

UPDATED INFORMATION – CANCELLED – Adult Mosquito Control Operations – Thursday, July 27, 2017 – Glenview, Northfield, Wilmette and Winnetka

Due to wind speeds that exceeded the parameters for effective control, The North Shore Mosquito Abatement District cancelled targeted adult mosquito control operations that were scheduled in portions of Glenview, Northfield, Wilmette and Winnetka on Thursday, July 27, 2017, between the hours of 8:00 PM and 2:00 AM.

And that leads into a big question about controlling mosquitoes: how effective is spraying?

That’s a question I examined on this very show some four years ago. At that time, Ruth Kerzee had just become executive director of the Midwest Pesticide Action Center, and she appeared on The Mike Nowak Show to talk about the efficacy of various types of mosquito control.

One thing that hasn’t changed in four years is this message from MPAC:

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the American Mosquito Control Association, the airborne spraying of pesticides, commonly called mosquito ‘fogging’, to kill adult mosquitoes is the least effective method to control mosquito populations. Fogging usually consists of spraying or fogging pesticides from the back of a truck or plane.

This method is ineffective because the pesticide only kills those mosquitoes flying in the spray; mosquitoes behind buildings or under vegetation are not affected. Airborne pesticides are particularly harmful as they may be easily ingested by humans and wildlife. Pesticide residue can also be left behind on items kept outdoors, such as children’s toys and outdoor furniture, or tracked inside on shoes.  Since fogging also kills insects that eat mosquitoes, it can cause future population booms for local mosquitoes.

On that show, I also looked at the product that was being sprayed in the City of Chicago. Here’s what I found:

The material being used to control the adult mosquitoes, Zenivex™, will be applied at a rate of 1.5 fluid ounces per acre. It is approved for use by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and is used to control mosquitoes in outdoor residential and recreational areas.

Zenivex™ has been used effectively to control disease-carrying mosquitoes and is non-persistent, decomposing rapidly in the environment. The rapid degradation of this product makes it an excellent choice for control of West Nile Virus-carrying mosquitoes.  The spray will be applied by licensed mosquito abatement technicians from Vector Disease Control International, a leader in the mosquito control industry. Guiding the crews through the streets will be supervisors from the Chicago Department of Streets and Sanitation.

I also discovered that Zenivex™ was toxic to aquatic organisms, including fish and aquatic invertebrates, and that it was “highly toxic to bees exposed to direct treatment on blooming crops or weeds.”

Clarke is the company of choice in the Chicago area when it comes to assisting mosquito abatement districts. In 2010, it received the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award from the federal Environmental Protection Agency for creating the larvicide Natular, which uses the active ingredient spinosad to control mosquito larvae in aquatic habitats.

On today’s show, Peggy and I will be talking to Ruth Kerzee from MPAC and Laura McGowan from Clarke. She says that in 2017, they use a spray called Duet. It’s primary active ingredient is something called Prallethrin, which is a pyrethroid insecticide. According to Wikipedia, “The World Health Organization published in 2004 that ‘Prallethrin is of low mammalian toxicity, with no evidence of carcinogenicity’ and ‘is very toxic to bees and fish but of low toxicity to birds.

McGowan says that the Duet formula employed by Clarke has something that causes “benign agitation” to mosquitoes, causing them to fly out from under leaves and other protection and into the fog, where they are killed. She says that they also use a product called “Merus:”

Merus™ 2.0 is the first and only adulticide listed with the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI), for wide-area mosquito control in and around organic gardens and farms and meets the USDA’s Natural Organic Program (NOP) standards for use on organic crops.  As the organic farm industry is continually growing this makes Merus 2.0 an excellent choice for these organic agricultural areas. It’s also a great product for ecologically sensitive areas or for communities concerned with green options for mosquito control. 

It has been established that using larvicides is a much more efficient way of killing mosquitoes than spraying. But spraying is still part of the arsenal used against the insect. Should it be? That’s one of a number of questions that will be asked on today’s show about mosquito control in the 21st Century. We hope you join us.