South Miami

South Miami mayor: Spraying for mosquitoes can have negative consequences

This rainy summer, my family was so vexed by mosquitoes that we could use neither our front porch nor back porch without turning on a fan and applying insect repellant. We embarked on a program to reduce the mosquito breeding in our yard and immediate neighborhood. We eliminated standing water in our yard, added mosquitofish to an abandoned swimming pool nearby, and removed ornamental bromeliads that collect water. Ten days later, we could sit outside again without the company of tiny buzzing vampires. I would be happy to assist any South Miami resident in the same program. In fact I have begun working with city staff on a citywide initiative to address stagnant water in derelict swimming pools, which can be detected from aerial imagery.

Rather than arguing over the rights of suburbanites to dominion over the smaller creatures on our planet, let us consider the rights of our human neighbors. Some citizens would give up a great deal to use their yards without ever seeing a mosquito. Others place great value in keeping honeybees, cultivating butterfly gardens, and planting their yards as bird sanctuaries. Others still are hypersensitive to organophosphate and pyrethroid insecticides. (Many veterans of the first Gulf War are particularly susceptible.) These citizens have a defensible right not to have their yards sprayed for the comfort of others. I believe the balance of these rights lies in the middle. You should have the right to spray your yard, and your neighbors should have the rights to protection from such spray. Nobody should be permitted to leave out unattended water or bromeliads that spawns hoards of mosquitoes that invade the yards of others.

South Miami remains a haven for wildlife, at least in those yards that are planted for it and that are not regularly doused with poisons. In the past 10 years, my own yard has hosted 138 bird species, 19 reptiles, and 4 amphibians. Our resident cardinals brought off another brood this year and we hosted painted buntings all through the winter. South Miami still has resident gray foxes. When you see the Cooper’s hawks fighting it’s because the breeding pairs have produced so many offspring they have to forcibly kick these youngsters out of their natal territories. I find that most residents of South Miami remain eager to share their yards with rest of the natural world and support my commitment to keep mosquitoes at bay through better-directed methods than insecticide application to entire neighborhoods, except when necessary to control a disease outbreak.

Philip K. Stoddard, Mayor, South Miami

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