News

Published:

June 7, 2019
 

Fighting for Our Salt Marshes: Adelphi Biology Professor Speaks Out on the Dangers of Methoprene


by Ela Schwartz
Matthias Foellmer, Ph.D.

Matthias Foellmer, Ph.D.

Summer is time for beaches, barbecues and fireworks. Unfortunately, it’s also mosquito season. To combat the problem, New York state sends helicopters to blanket spray wetlands with the pesticide methoprene. But Matthias Foellmer, Ph.D., professor of biology, and the Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter are making the case that combating what’s essentially a “nuisance problem” isn’t worth decimating the health of salt marshes and their ecosystems.

Dr. Foellmer shared his expertise in a video produced by the Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter. He explained that healthy wetlands protect property and surrounding areas by absorbing flood water from storms such as Superstorm Sandy. They also support a diverse number of species, some of which have a similar aquatic larval stage as mosquitoes. Methoprene interferes with the development of species such as dragonflies, crustaceans and zooplankton, which feed on the phytoplankton that contribute to harmful green-algae blooms. Ironically, dragonflies prey upon mosquitoes.

As Dr. Foellmer notes, “The methoprene, which is used to kill off or control mosquitoes, inadvertently and inevitably targets their predators, and this obviously does not make much sense.”

Populations of mosquito predators like birds and dragonflies are also impacted when they are deprived of a food source.

What about the West Nile virus and mosquito-borne illnesses? Applying pesticides is a response to phone-call complaints, not the threat of West Nile virus. And according to Suffolk County data, infections occur in urban and suburban areas, not in wetlands.

“If we would like to have healthy coastal wetland systems, which are able to function, from a human perspective, as efficient storm flood protectors, we need to have healthy wetlands,” Dr. Foellmer says. “We need to promote salt marsh ecosystem health, which entails limiting our insults to these systems.”

Dr. Foellmer and the Sierra Club urge viewers to share the video and call New York state representatives to support Assembly Bill A6366 and Senate Bill S4314, which would ban the blanket spraying of methoprene. Dr. Foellmer said: “I hope the video also motivates viewers to reevaluate their own pesticide use, since there are no environmentally benign pesticides and we face a dramatic decrease in the number of insects, including bees and butterflies, on a global scale.”

 

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