Weighing Risks of Big-Gun Pesticides
I recently got a call from a lady who was panicking over her neighbor's plans to control clover mites. Apparently the neighbor hired an exterminator to spray his trees with cyfluthrin for the mites. The person who called me is chemically sensitive, as is her dog, who is still sick from pesticide exposure a couple years ago. Her neighbor was afraid the clover mites would infest him or his dogs. This is, of course, nonsense.
Clover mites (Bryobia praetiosa) do not infest people or animals. They live on the ground and feed on a variety of plants, mostly grasses. They are easily distinguished from other mites by the long length of their first pair of legs. They often enter homes when there is a lot of vegetation next to the house—usually on the south side of the house. Clover mites are best controlled by removing all vegetation from within about two feet of the house, particularly grass. Make sure all cracks and crevices small enough to admit them are sealed. If they do get in the house, simply wipe them up with a soapy rag. Clover mites are absolutely harmless.
On the other hand, cyfluthrin is not harmless; it's a neurotoxin with a mode of action similar to that of DDT. Acute exposure can cause stinging skin, tremors, convulsions, decreased blood pressure and labored breathing. Cyfluthrin products also contain several inert ingredients that are not disclosed. The industry calls them trade secrets. Some inerts found in cyfluthrin-based pesticides include xylenes that can cause eye, throat and nose irritation, labored breathing, lung inflammation, nausea, vomiting, mild liver toxicity, impaired short-term memory and hearing loss in exposed humans. Another inert ingredient is ethylbenzene. It causes throat irritation, eye irritation, damage to liver and kidneys, dizziness and incoordination in humans. And the last are trimethylbenzenes, which are highly volatile solvents that can cause skin and eye irritation, nervousness, tension, bronchitis, disruptions of the ability of blood to clot, headaches, fatigue, dizziness and loss of consciousness.
Cyfluthrin is also highly toxic to honeybees, the insects that pollinate much of our food.Which would you prefer to have around your house: clover mites—which are absolutely harmless—or a cyfluthrin pesticide which is potentially very dangerous?
We have to get away from using pesticides in and around our homes, schools, businesses and medical facilities. There are no pests in New Mexico—with the possible exception of termites—that require the use of pesticides; in some cases, even termites can be controlled without toxic products.
If you have Oriental cockroaches in and around your home, you can control them with NiBan Bait, which is made from boric acid, beer and masking tape. NiBan can be placed under your sinks, under and behind appliances, in the water meter outside, in your garage and in many other places. You can fill some pie pans with beer and place them outside where roaches congregate. You'll discover many dead roaches the next morning. You can put masking tape down, sticky side up, and you'll catch a lot of roaches as they're attracted to the glue.
There are many baits you can use for ant control, as you may have seen in my New Mexico ant booklet. Bed bugs are even treatable by the homeowner or business owner without using toxic pesticides. Spiders, centipedes, fleas, ticks, and so on can all be managed safely and effectively without pesticides.
I've finished a book on this subject called Pests (or Guests) & How to Manage them Safely and Effectively. This booklet is absolutely free to anyone and everyone in North America. I've had many excellent comments on it, and I will make it available to every school district in New Mexico, to any business that wants it and to all nursing homes and day care centers anywhere in the country. Like the ant booklet, I'll send it out in .pdf format, and everyone can share it with their friends, family, employers, students and staff. We have to quit exposing our children, pets and selves to toxic pesticides.
There's no reason the woman who contacted me or her dog had to get sick simply because her neighbor had clover mites. If you want a copy of the booklet for yourself or for your business, school or medical facility, please let me know. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I'll happily send it to you.
If you have any pest questions, feel free to contact me via email (email@example.com) or by phone at 385-2820. You can also follow me on Twitter @askthebugman. I am constantly posting non-toxic pest control tips on Twitter.