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Pollinators could be collateral damage of backyard mosquito spraying

Itching for relief from the pesky biters, more people are hiring professionals to spray their backyards, however, these sprays could harm more than mosquitos.

PENNSYLVANIA, USA — Mosquitoes are a big problem in the summer, but the growing trend of spraying backyards to get rid of them comes with its own set of problems.

Itching for relief from the pesky biters, more people are hiring professionals to spray their backyards. Eliminating mosquitoes has the benefit of preventing bites, which are linked to serious diseases such as Zika and the West Nile virus. The CDC reported a dramatic uptick in mosquito-related illnesses in 2020.

Pennsylvania has had 48 deaths from West Nile Virus between 2001 and 2021. There have been eight cases reported so far this year, according to data from the state Department of Environmental Protection.

Chemicals like DEET can deter mosquitoes from biting, while pesticides can kill larvae before they grow to adulthood. But chemical solutions come with a cost as well, according to environmental advocates.

“If you're using a toxic chemical that's toxic to certain types of species like insects, you might expect to see some collateral damage,” said John Meeker, professor of environmental health sciences at the University of Michigan.

Overuse of pesticides can kill not just mosquitoes, but also nearby pollinators like bees and butterflies.

Accordingly, some pest control companies have strategies to protect pollinators. Mosquito Joe, a national chain, avoids spraying near flowering plants.

“We need our pollinators, right? They're incredibly important, but at the same time, we need to eliminate mosquitoes that vector diseases,” said Mosquito Joe director of technical services David Price.

The need for mosquito control will only grow in the future, as climate change is lengthening summer and thus the mosquito season by up to a month in some places.

One easy mosquito solution that doesn’t involve any chemicals is removing standing water near your house. That includes water puddling in pots and other containers, even as small as a bottle cap.

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