The Forum story about the monarch massacre really shouldn’t be a mystery. Because the last aerial spraying happened to occur during the monarch migration, it just made more visible what happens every time they spray.
We have lived at our home in Oakport Township for 49 years. We are organic gardeners and I have tried to make our two acres a welcome place for most of nature’s creatures. For decades summertime was alive with many kinds of insects and the many spiders in our barn had no trouble catch dinner in their webs. I have to admit the mosquitoes were sometimes abundant and we often had to wear protective clothing and use repellent when we weeded or picked garden produce.
- Vector Control at a loss as to why mosquito spraying resulted in mass butterfly deaths
- Cass County defends mosquito spraying as state investigates cause of mass monarch deaths
- McFeely: 'Truthers' questioning whether mosquito spray actually killed monarchs
Then about 20 years ago West Nile virus arrived and aerial spraying began. Going outside after a spray was like entering Rachel Carson’s silent spring. The mosquitoes were mostly gone, but so were all the other insects. Sometimes I found bees in their death throes crawling on the ground unable to fly. The spiders in the barn died and have never returned. I used to find a large hornet’s nest on our land every summer and also bumblebee nests, but no more. The purple martins and barn swallows that used to nest on our property quit showing up, probably because there were no insects to eat. The bats we used to see in our yard light also disappeared. We see very few insects of any kind.
Because we are organic gardeners I contacted Airborne Custom Spraying and asked if he could avoid spraying us. Dean was very cooperative and said he would try to veer around our property when he sprayed, but he said we still might get some drift because the droplets are very small. Over the years Dean and I became friends and he would call before every spray so I could throw a tarp over garden crops that were nearing harvest. We used to pick about 300 quarts of raspberries every year, and one summer Dean flew here in his helicopter to buy some berries and he also took us for a ride.
Apparently the business is under new ownership. When I called, the new owner said he had a contract to spray the city and if I wanted an exemption I had to call Cass County Vector Control. I did call Ben Prather, and he patiently and politely answered my questions but said they can’t make any exceptions. He also said it probably wouldn’t help anyway because of spray drift. He assured me that the spray rate of permethrin is so low it would be perfectly safe to eat the small amount on our garden produce.
When community ed offered a class on creating a pollinator garden I signed up. Since I knew that permethrin is very toxic to bees and butterflies I asked the instructor “What’s the point of attracting pollinators? Aren’t we just luring them to their deaths the next time they spray?” He had no answer.
According to Cornell University, permethrin is a broad spectrum insecticide meaning it kills all kinds of insects. When contacted or ingested it quickly paralyzes the nervous systems of insects. It can be toxic to cats and also is highly toxic to fish. Because of this the EPA prohibits spraying permethrin within 100 feet of rivers and lakes. It is also classified as a possible carcinogen.