Animals and Insects

Surging Demand For Bug Spraying Is Hurting Other Animals

Experts are warning about the harm that spraying yards for bugs can bring to the ecosystem.

Surging Demand For Bug Spraying Is Hurting Other Animals
John Flesher / AP

They are the bane of summertime existence: mosquitoes, eager to bite anytime.

Not only are they an itchy nuisance — they carry diseases.

In 2020, the CDC reported “dramatic” increases in illnesses spread by mosquitoes and other blood feeders. Scientists are finding malaria and dengue emerging in previously unaffected areas.

Climate change has extended the mosquito season in some areas, and that’s factoring into a surging demand for professional yard spraying.

But there’s a potential downside to yard-wide treatments.

According to the journal Biological Conservation, more than 40% of insect species worldwide are threatened with extinction. That includes pollinator bees and butterflies. 

"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, an environmental health sciences professor at University of Michigan.

There’s also been a decrease of predators. Three billion North American birds have been lost in recent decades, mostly consisting of insect eaters.

Some companies are offering natural alternatives for mosquito control, like water mixed with essential oils from plants like lemongrass, garlic and peppermint.

"One of our dogs likes to eat wood chips from the landscaping," said Marty Marino, who is trying natural mosquito repellents. "I haven't figured out how to stop that yet, but if he's going to do that and there's the synthetic insecticide on it, that's a great concern." 

Experts say homeowners can also avoid the unwanted effects of chemicals by using simpler solutions, like emptying stagnant water sources and using electric fans to keep the pests away.