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Don’t ‘Sprayze’ Me, Bro: Organic Farmer To Dallas County Commissioners

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Dallas County plans a new, more aggressive way to control mosquitoes and West Nile virus next year. 2012 was the worst year ever in North Texas: 18 deaths in Dallas County alone. But, beekeepers and organic farmers do not want aerial pesticide spraying as part of the 2013 plan.

About a dozen beekeepers, organic farmers and concerned citizens spoke before Dallas County Commissioners Court. Syndicated gardening show host Howard Garrett said aerial pesticide spraying is harmful and it doesn’t work.

“It misses most of the adult mosquitoes and it misses all of the larvae,” said Garrett.

Garrett recommended biological agents to kill mosquito larvae before they hatch, fly, and bite: and adding the tiny gambusia fish to creeks, ponds and other water sources.  It eats mosquito eggs.

“I recommend that the city of Dallas, the county and other cities get involved in raising these,” Garrett told Commissioners. “They’re very easy to grow. Kids should be encouraged to raise these things and a whole comprehensive program should be set up for their distribution and release.”

Garrett and others advocated year-round mosquito monitoring with traps, testing and treatment.  Commissioner John Wiley Price says it’s going to take commitment and cash.  

“In your various cities, what kind of commitment, budgetary commitment, have they made to increase their position?” asked Price. “Now the city of Dallas has gone to at least 90 traps, year-round surveillance.”

County Judge Clay Jenkins supports the increased surveillance and aggressive larvaciding. But he also defends aerial spraying.

“The aerial spraying stopped the epidemic and saved lives,”said Jenkins.  “I hope this monitoring will lead us into never getting into epidemic phases again.”

Others speaking before Commissioners told of rashes, trouble breathing following the aerial spraying last August. Judge Jenkins asked them to provide their stories and medical documentation to pass along before a Centers for Disease Control report on the West Nile response comes out early next year.  

“As it stands right now, the information that the state and federal government has, as well as the information I have, is that the aerial spraying did not cause damage to bees, mammals or people,” said Jenkins.

Beekeeper Brandon Pollard says he lost a lot of bees this year to ground and aerial spraying.  Organic farmer Tom Spicer told commissioners it did damage to his business, too.

“Pretty much everybody has pointed out the problems and some of the more intelligent solutions,” noted Spicer.  “So, all I can say is please don’t sprayze me, bro.”

Judge Jenkins says a new mosquito/West Nile virus program will be formalized after the recommendations from the CDC. 

Former KERA reporter BJ Austin spent more than 25 years in broadcast journalism, anchoring and reporting in Atlanta, New York, New Orleans and Dallas. Along the way, she covered Atlanta City Hall, the Georgia Legislature and the corruption trials of Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards.