(Beyond Pesticides, August 1, 2011) After sighting three Japanese beetles in the vicinity of Greenback Lane and Fair Oaks Boulevard in Sacramento County, California, state officials are scheduled to spray pesticides linked to cancer, reproductive and neurological effects. On August 2, the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) is scheduled to begin ground applications of carbaryl on fruit-bearing trees, and cyfluthrin on non-fruit-bearing trees and landscape plants in attempts to stave of attacks from the voracious Japanese beetle.
Japanese beetles, a threat to turf grass as well as ornamental plants such as roses and cut flowers, have been detected in the Fair Oaks area, state officials said, but the ”˜infestation’ appears to be localized. To keep the ”˜infestation’ from spreading countywide, Juli Jensen, Acting Agricultural Commissioner, is urging residents in the area not to move plants or plant parts. The initial treatments will be directed at adult beetles and begins August 2 with applications of carbaryl on fruit-bearing trees, and cyfluthrin on non-fruit-bearing trees and landscape plants. Two weeks later, a second treatment will be applied and augmented by a granular imidacloprid to target grubs. The applications, to occur on approximately 100 properties, will be carried out by the department staff and subcontractors following all pesticide use laws and regulations, with advance and post-treatment notices to residents. However, the state is not seeking permission from homeowners to spray in and around their property. Unfortunately, organic farmers and gardeners and those chemically sensitive individuals will not be provided a less toxic option. According to CDFA, pesticide use enforcement staff will randomly monitor applications, and will provide environmental monitoring during the treatment.
Pesticides are Highly Toxic
Carbaryl, also known by its trade name Sevin, is one of the most widely-used insecticides in the U.S., and is controversial because of its neurotoxic, cancer and teratogentic properties. Carbaryl poses risks of concern from uses in and around the home, to occupational handlers who mix, load, and apply the pesticide in agricultural sites, and to workers who may be exposed upon re-entering treated areas. Carbaryl is a member of the n-methylcarbamate class of pesticides and can cause cholinesterase inhibition in humans, meaning that it can over stimulate the nervous system causing nausea, dizziness, confusion, and at high exposures, respiratory paralysis, and death. Carbaryl is classified as a likely human carcinogen based on vascular tumors in mice.
Cyfluthrin a synthetic pyrethroid and imidacloprid, a neonicotinoid, are both neurotoxic and both toxic to bees. Imidacloprid belongs to a class of chemicals suspected as a main cause of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) where millions of hives across the country are being deserted due to significant bee deaths. Studies show that imidacloprid, like other chemicals in its class, produces sublethal effects in honeybees which include disruptions in mobility, navigation, and feeding behavior. Decreased foraging activity, along with olfactory learning performance and decreased hive activity have also been observed. A recent report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS), shows that losses of honey bee populations over the 2010/2011 winter remained abnormally high, reflecting continuing damages attributed to CCD.
To hear scientists and professional beekeepers discuss the impact of pesticides on honeybees and other pollinators, see the video of the Pesticides and Pollinators Panel from Beyond Pesticides 29th annual National Pesticide Forum. Visit the Pollinator Protection webpage for more information of honeybees and pesticides.
Exposures to cyfluthrin (through inhalation) cause symptoms at very low doses; concentrations of as little as 150 parts per billion are enough to cause lethargy and a failure to gain weight. Cyfluthrin also appears to affect reproduction. Rabbits exposed to cyfluthrin during pregnancy miscarried more frequently than unexposed rabbits. Synthetic pyrethroids as a class appear to disrupt androgen (male sex hormone) function. Consistent with this, cyfluthrin interferes with receptors that are part of this hormone system. Along with bees, cyfluthrin is also highly toxic to fish and other aquatic organisms.
Japanese beetles and their larvae can be controlled without toxic pesticides:
1. Lawn Care: Adult beetles prefer to lay their eggs in short grass. Cutting your grass tall – minimum of 2 inches high – may discourage egg laying, and reduce future grub populations. Eggs require moist soil conditions in order to hatch and prevent the larvae from drying out. Therefore, deep periodic soaking of the turf is more beneficial than frequent light watering.
2. Encourage Natural Parasites and Predators: Certain species of wasps, such as Tiphia spp. and Scoliids prey specifically on white grubs. Some birds can consume large number of insects in your yard, including adult beetles and grubs. Attract birds to your property by providing bird feeders, houses and baths.
3. Adult Beetle Management: Handpicking beetles, using mechanical traps and planting plants that repel beetles can effectively minimize adult beetle populations.
For more information, read the Beyond Pesticides Factsheet, “Grounding out Grubs.”
Take Action: If you live in the Sacramento area call or write the California Department of Food and Agriculture and/or your local media outlet to voice your opposition to the spraying of 3 toxic pesticides on residential property.
Acting Agriculture Commissioner (Sacramento)
4137 Branch Center Road
Tel: (916) 875-6603; Fax (916) 875-6150
Photo Courtesy California Dept. of Food and Agriculture