Methoprene Madness in Suffolk County

To the surprise of absolutely no one, The Suffolk County Legislature once again approved the use of Methoprene spray for mosquito control, with regular spraying to be performed over 20,000 acres of salt marshes (that’s 30 square miles, folks) on a regular basis throughout the late spring, summer, and early fall.

  • This is despite the fact that Methoprene kills a wide variety of invertebrates (read insects and other members of the Arthropod family like crustaceans).
  • This is despite the fact that various municipalities are banning or restricting its use for that reason.
  • This is despite the fact that a perfectly natural inexpensive method of killing mosquitoes, a bacillus called BTi, one that is EPA recommended, could be used, even by homeowners.  It’s even available on Amazon.
  • This is despite the fact that “Vector Control”‘s mission is to kill disease carrying mosquitoes where only fresh water mosquitoes — the weak flyers breeding in your bird bath in your back yard or in your clogged gutters — are the ones carrying West Nile.

Suffolk County is actively destroying marsh habitat, disrupting their ecosystems because they are for some reason hell bent on using Methoprene.

We came to testify anyway.   Well, a few environmental groups did.   I am baffled at who wasn’t present.

Defend H2O, represented by Kevin McAllister was there.   Kevin has been advocating for Methoprene’s ban for a decade now.   With each year, the Legislature’s indifference seems to grow.   Here is Kevin’s eloquent testimony:

Charles Bevington of The Sierra Club of Long Island was also present, speaking to the fact that the best way to combat mosquitoes is with healthy marshes, that Methoprene kills dragonflies, a key predator, and that BTi was an EPA recommended effective safe natural alternative to Methoprene.

Here’s a video that The Sierra Club produced on the topic:

Coming as I was from Manhasset for the 9:30 Tuesday AM vote, and thinking it was to take place in Hauppauge, I just barely got in the door to offer my testimony, which accorded well with what Kevin and Charles had to say.

I started with a story:

I was down on Kiawah Island in South Carolina a couple of years back with my family. We were dining at a restaurant on a golf course, on what they call in the south a “veradandah.” It was the biggest porch I’d ever seen. There were about 150 people dining. Dusk came. Up from the marshes came the mosquitoes. Lots of them. We were getting bitten alive. We asked the waiter to move us inside. They listened politely and said they’d see what they could do. Ten minutes later, the dragonflies swooped in like helicopters, then as the gloom descended came the bats. We and the rest of the diners stayed on unmolested and enjoyed our meals. It was miraculous.

Flash forward to a clean up I was involved in on Gilgo Island, a marsh island off Amityville near Fire Island. There were 80 of us. We were out there a couple of hours. We got eaten alive. I saw zero dragonflies.

I then concluded with this — Methoprene leads to degraded marshes. The best defense is a healthy marsh. BTi is EPA recommended. Why does the county persist in this self-defeating and destructive policy?

Three hours of driving to speak for five minutes to people who had no interest in listening on a Tuesday morning. From now on we need to name the place and time rather than take a huge chunk out of our days to speak before people whose minds are more than made up.

Save The Great South Bay is holding Creek Defender Day April 13th in all 16 South Shore communities. Added to the agenda now will be a public campaign calling for an end to Methoprene spraying with the adoption of BTi as the preferred natural alternative. Only local grassroots pressure will change this. Votes matter. Educating our citizens as to what’s at stake matters.

Globally we are facing what the New York Times calls The Insect Apocalypse and Suffolk County is part of the the problem. Locally, we must demand healthy marshes and proper stewardship. What we have now is callous cynical indifference, for reasons only known to the county.

Everyone hates mosquitoes.  But Methoprene makes the situation worse, and causes a great deal of collateral damage besides.   We must do better.

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