For some, like myself admittedly, mosquitoes are the stuff of nightmares. I once had a dream where a giant mosquito lifted me up and took me away to a quiet place to bite me.
Others, like environmental activist Dr. Raquel Feroe, see mosquitoes in a totally different light. The former doctor is a member of Pesticide Free Edmonton. She is passionate about the environment and a future based on natural and personal ways of avoiding mosquito bites.
Bti, one of the products the City of Edmonton uses for its annual spraying, is a pesticide that uses proteins from a bacteria. While it is approved for use by Health Canada Pest Management Regulatory Agency, and is considered non-toxic to almost all aquatic species, Feroe points out that there are still issues with using it.
“Bti kills non-biting midges as well as mosquito larvae,” she says. “Midges make up 50 to 70 per cent and more of the abundance (biomass) that feeds birds, amphibians, fish, and spiders.” As well, adult male mosquitoes are useful pollinators. It’s the females that do the biting.
Feroe encourages us to be careful about using the term “pests.”
“We need to humble ourselves to develop a better relationship with nature,” she says. She quotes a friend who said: “Making the environment deadly can’t possibly create health and vibrancy.” In Feroe’s view, “Natural or synthetic, senseless killing is unwarranted.”
The City works closely with other programs to pursue more natural pest-control measures. Mike Jenkins, pest management coordinator, says, “We do have an active and robust targeted ground control spraying program to proactively manage the mosquito population. We are also considering various alternative biological control measures, as well as enhanced monitoring and surveillance of mosquitoes and biodiversity.”
In a typical year, most mosquito development starts declining in mid-August, as precipitation decreases and mosquito populations begin declining. Wide-scale applications past this period are rare, unless the conditions are unusually warm and rainy.
“We are increasingly focusing on a natural approach to mosquito control,” adds Jenkins. “Through the implementation of alternative approaches and by focusing on increasing biodiversity, we continue to provide [access to mostly mosquito-free natural settings for] Edmontonians who want to enjoy the outdoors during the summer months, while preserving our environment.”
Feroe asks that we don’t accept spraying without thinking of the consequences. “An insect apocalypse would have a devastating effect on biodiversity, the food chain, and our ecosystems.”
Pesticide Free Edmonton continues to encourage the City to do more. “The City can educate people to have better ecological knowledge. To develop wildlife habitat for fish and birds, we need to work with nature versus against nature.”
Jenkins admits, “These programs follow natural processes and may take some time to establish.”
In the meantime, we can all follow the advice of both the City and Feroe. When outdoors this summer, wear cover-up clothing and long-sleeved shirts, and use plenty of approved insect spray. Insect spray with DEET works as a repellent, but some people find Citronella also works. I will be doing all that, for sure.