Mosquito spraying … what to do?

Mosquito spraying can kill caterpillars. In Florida, the government has been testing different sprays for a few years, adapting to find the insecticide that is most damaging to mosquitoes and least damaging to butterflies. We’ve supplied the caterpillars and adults for these tests for nearly ten years. I wish all states would do the same, test the insecticides on local native species of butterflies. It is better to sacrifice some with the goal of saving a larger number in the short and long run.

If you know the fogging truck is coming or they will be doing aerial spraying, cover your plants quickly.

Approach your city/county agency that is responsible for fogging/spraying with trucks. Explain the situation with Monarch butterflies. Be prepared with government articles/documents printed out and take them with you. Read the articles first and make sure you understand them so you can discuss the situation yourself. You can find some government articles online. Ask them which insecticide is being used. Do research and find out how the active ingredient works. Does it affect only mosquitoes? Does it affect caterpillars and butterflies? Ask for your area (in front of your house) not be sprayed.

To talk to someone about aerial spraying, talk to the people who make those decisions on the state level. Again, be prepared with good, reliable, accurate information. Ask that you be notified before they spray. Because of drift issues from air spraying, asking not to be sprayed may do little to zero good. They may do their best to avoid your yard but a simple gust of wind can change all that. Prior notification is safest.


1. Be prepared with articles from reliable sources, preferably a government agency or university publication. Understand the articles yourself so you can discuss them intelligently.

2. Don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know but I’ll research and find out.” Saying something as fact that is inaccurate will undermine all your efforts. If they know you’re not telling the truth about something, why should they believe anything you say?

3. Be kind. Be patient. Don’t be angry. Use a calm tone of voice. Anger, yelling, name-calling … all these undermine your efforts. Few people will respond well to threats or anger. Most will decide, right then and there, that they don’t want to reward rudeness and bad behavior by doing what you want. One person, recently, made a difference by staying calm and being kind. When the decision was made to do what she asked, she was told that the reason it went her way was due to her attitude more than anything else. Remember, the person you are talking with is rarely the one making the decision. You need that person to move your request to a higher level, or to tell you who to talk with about the issue who has the authority to make those decisions. Don’t blame the person who is simply doing his/her job and cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, make those decisions.

4. In some areas, the decision to spray is about human lives. In south Florida, there were some bad mosquito-borne diseases around in the last decade. Those involved in spraying need to know that you value human lives too, more than butterflies. We may disagree on how to protect human lives but when you argue against spraying altogether, it will be translated as valuing butterflies more than humans. Sometimes it isn’t the truth that matters (that you do value humans more) but the perception that the other person has. (The official who can’t imagine any other way to control mosquitoes will think you value butterflies more than humans if you attack any and all mosquito spraying.)

Side note: Be aware that the insecticide can become active in water and run over and splash onto your plants. If your plants are in pots, don’t place the pots directly on the grass or soil. Place them in saucers or on bricks/rocks, lifted off the ground. Keep your sheets or whatever you use to cover your plants in a readily accessible area so you can grab and cover in just a few minutes. When you hear that truck, you may only have two minutes.

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