Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Mosquito Spraying Ineffective and Toxic to Wildlife and Humans

Mosquito Spraying Ineffective and Toxic to Wildlife and Humans

Xerces Society

Scientists at the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation sent a letter yesterday to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service asking that the agency abandon a proposed mosquito control project at the Bandon Marsh National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon. Although no public health emergency has been declared, and no existence of mosquito-transmitted disease has been found, a decision was made to spray about 10,000 acres in and around the refuge with two insecticides, Dibrom and MetaLarv S-PT. Both of these insecticides are toxic to a broad variety of wildlife.

Dibrom is intended to kill adult mosquitoes. The active ingredient is naled, an organophosphate nerve agent that is highly toxic to humans as well as to a wide range of wildlife. Drift from spraying can negatively impact pollinators such as honey bees, native bees and butterflies. This type of spraying is widely recognized as being an ultimately ineffective form of mosquito management, especially for a species such as the salt marsh mosquito (Aedes dorsalis), which is being targeted at Bandon, because it can fly 10 miles or more from its emergence site and will recolonize the treated area.

MetaLarv S-PT is a slow-release formulation of methoprene, a compound that mimics the naturally-occurring juvenile hormone in insects. Although much less toxic to humans than Dibrom, MetaLarv is highly toxic to aquatic invertebrates including dragonfly nymphs, aquatic beetles, mayflies, non-biting midges and crustaceans from copepods to crabs, and may be linked to developmental defects in amphibians.

“The Xerces Society has grave concerns with the chemical controls proposed for salt marsh mosquitoes at Bandon Marsh NWR and the Bandon area,” said Celeste Mazzacano, aquatic conservation director of the Xerces Society and lead author of the report Ecologically Sound Mosquito Management in Wetlands. “To say that the spraying will not harm animals is misunderstanding the true impact of these chemicals. There are much better ways to control mosquitoes.”

The current plan calls for spraying about 10,000 acres of marshland and forests around Bandon, including residential and recreational areas, despite the fact that there are no reports of mosquitoes infesting the beach or the town. This plan runs counter to the Fish and Wildlife Service’s own draft mosquito control policy which states: “we will allow populations of native mosquito species to function unimpeded unless they cause a human and/or wildlife health threat” (emphasis added).

It is also contrary to the widely adopted tenets of Integrated Pest Management, in which a thorough process of surveillance is conducted to determine the “hotspots” of mosquito larval development and those sites are spot-treated with the least toxic insecticide possible, when and as needed.
 
The plan has also not addressed the potential impact that spraying could have on shorebirds and song birds that use invertebrates as food as they migrate southward in September and October, or on the federally endangered western snowy plovers that inhabit coastal beaches year-round. Because of disruption of food webs waterfowl that migrate later in the fall could also be affected.

In addition, there is apparently no consideration of how this could affect fisheries. Both organophosphates and methoprene are directly toxic to fish, and many young fish feed on the invertebrates that would be killed under this treatment plan. MetaLarv is also highly toxic to young crabs as well as other crustaceans, and can cause abnormalities in development and reproduction at sublethal doses.

“This spraying project is not a solution and has long-term impacts and we call on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to halt it,” said Scott Black, executive director of the Xerces Society and co-author of the report. “We urge the Oregon Coast National Wildlife Refuge Complex to develop a rational, environmentally sound and effective mosquito management plan for the Bandon Marsh area in accord with the tenets of Integrated Pest Management.”

Visit EcoWatch’s BIODIVERSITY page for more related news on this topic.

Fish exposed to endocrine-disrupting compounds, like this inland silverside fish, can pass on health problems to future generations. Bill Stagnaro / Wikimedia Commons / CC by 3.0

By Brian Bienkowski

Fish exposed to endocrine-disrupting compounds pass on health problems to future generations, including deformities, reduced survival, and reproductive problems, according to a new study.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern declares victory during the Labor Party Election Night Function at Auckland Town Hall on Oct. 17, 2020 in Auckland, New Zealand. Hannah Peters / Getty Images

Jacinda Ardern, the New Zealand Prime Minister who has emerged as a leader on the climate crisis and the coronavirus pandemic, has won a second term in office.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Poor eating habits, lack of exercise, genetics, and a bunch of other things are known to be behind excessive weight gain. But, did you know that how much sleep you get each night can also determine how much weight you gain or lose?

Read More Show Less
A woman holds a handful of vitamin C. VO IMAGES / Getty Images

By Laura Beil

Consumers have long turned to vitamins and herbs to try to protect themselves from disease. This pandemic is no different — especially with headlines that scream "This supplement could save you from coronavirus."

Read More Show Less
Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge and Sir David Attenborough look at a piece of ice core from the Antarctic during a naming ceremony for the polar research ship the RSS Sir David Attenborough on Sept. 26, 2019 in Birkenhead, England. Asadour Guzelian - WPA Pool / Getty Images

By Elliot Douglas

In early October, Britain's Prince William teamed up with conservationist David Attenborough to launch the Earthshot Prize, a new award for environmentalist innovation. The Earthshot brands itself the "most prestigious global environment prize in history."

The world-famous wildlife broadcaster and his royal sidekick appear to have played an active role in the prize's inception, and media coverage has focused largely on them as the faces of the campaign.

But the pair are only the frontmen of a much larger movement which has been in development for several years. In addition to a panel of experts who will decide on the winners, the prize's formation took advice from the World Wildlife Fund, Greenpeace and the Jack Ma Foundation.

With more and more global attention on the climate crisis, celebrity endorsement of environmental causes has become more common. But why do environmental causes recruit famous faces for their campaigns? And what difference can it make?

'Count Me In'

"We need celebrities to reach those people who we cannot reach ourselves," says Sarah Marchildon from the United Nations Climate Change secretariat (UNFCCC) in Bonn, Germany.

Marchildon is a proponent of the use of celebrities to raise awareness of environmental causes. In addition to promoting a selection of climate ambassadors who represent the UN on sustainability issues, Marchildon's team has produced videos with well-known narrators from the entertainment world: among them, Morgan Freeman and Mark Ruffalo.

"We choose celebrities who have a lifestyle where they are already talking about these issues," Marchildon explains.

"Sometimes they reach out to us themselves, as David Attenborough did recently. And then they can promote the videos on their own social channels which reach more people than we do — for example, if they have 20 million followers and we have 750,000."

Environmental groups focused on their own domestic markets are also taking this approach. One Germany-based organization that uses celebrities in campaigns is the German Zero NGO. Set up in 2019, it advocates for a climate-neutral Germany by 2035.

German Zero produced a video in March 2020 introducing the campaign with "66 celebrities" that supported the campaign, among them Deutschland 83 actor Jonas Nay and former professional footballer Andre Schürrle. They solicit support as well as financial contributions from viewers.

"Count me in," they say, pointing toward the camera. "You too?"

"We are incredibly grateful for the VIPs in our videos," says German Zero spokeswoman Eva-Maria McCormack.

Assessing Success Is Complex

But quantifying the effectiveness of celebrity endorsement of campaigns is not a straightforward process.

"In order to measure effectiveness, first of all you need to define what is meant by success," says Alegria Olmedo, a researcher at the Zoology Department at the University of Oxford.

Olmedo is the author of a study looking at a range of campaigns concerning pangolin consumption, fronted by local and Western celebrities, in Vietnam and China. But she says her biggest stumbling block was knowing how to measure a campaign's success.

"You need a clear theory of change," explains Olmedo. "Have the celebrities actually helped in achieving the campaign's goals? And how do you quantify these goals? Maybe it is increased donations or higher engagement with a cause."

A popular campaign in China in recent years saw famous chefs Zhao Danian and Shu Yi pledge to abstain from cooking endangered wildlife. While the pledge achieved widespread recognition, both Olmedo and Marchildon say it's difficult to know whether it made any difference to people's actions.

"In life we see a thousand messages every day, and it is very hard to pinpoint whether one campaign has actually made a difference in people's behavior," she explains.

Awareness Is Not Enough

Many campaigns that feature celebrities focus on raising awareness rather than on concrete action — which, for researcher Olmedo, raises a further problem in identifying effectiveness.

"Reach should never be a success outcome," she says. "Many campaigns say they reached a certain number of people on social media. But there has been a lot of research that shows that simply giving people information does not mean they are actually going to remember it or act upon it."

But anecdotal evidence from campaigns may suggest reach can make an active difference.

"Our VIP video is by far the most watched on our social media channels," McCormack from German Zero says. "People respond to it very directly. A lot of volunteers of all ages heard about us through that video."

However, some marketing studies have shown that celebrity endorsement of a cause or product can distract from the issue itself, as people only remember the person, not the content of what they were saying.

Choosing the Right Celebrity

Celebrity choice is also very important. Campaigns that use famous faces are often aiming to appeal to members of the public who do not necessarily follow green issues.

For certain campaigns with clear target audiences, choosing a climate scientist or well-known environmentalist rather than a celebrity could be more appealing — Attenborough is a classic example. For others, images and videos involving cute animals may be more likely to get a message heard than attaching a famous face.

"We choose celebrities who have a lifestyle where they are already talking about these issues," says Marchildon from the UN. "You need figures with credibility."

McCormack cites the example of Katharine Hayhoe, an environmental scientist who is also an evangelical Christian. In the southern United States, Hayhoe has become a celebrity in her own right, appealing to an audience that might not normally be interested in the messages of climate scientists.

But as soon as you get a celebrity involved, campaigns also put themselves at risk of the whims of that celebrity. Prince William and younger members of the royal family have come under fire in recent years for alleged hypocrisy for their backing of environmental campaigns while simultaneously using private jets to fly around the world.

But Does It Really Work?

While environmental campaigns hope that endorsement from well-known figures can boost a campaign, there is little research to back this up.

"The biggest finding [from my study] was that we were unable to produce any evidence that shows that celebrity endorsement of environmental causes makes any difference," says Olmedo.

This will come as a blow to many campaigns that have invested time and effort into relationships with celebrity ambassadors. But for many, the personal message that many celebrities offer in videos like that produced by German Zero and campaigns like the Earthshot Prize are what counts.

The research may not prove this conclusively — but if the public believes a person they respect deeply personally cares about an important issue, they are perhaps more likely to care too.

"I personally believe in the power this can have," says Marchildon. "And if having a celebrity involved can get a single 16-year-old future leader thinking about environmentalist issues — that is enough."

Reposted with permission from DW.

Support Ecowatch