Most of us have heard the ominous rumble of the mosquito fogger and been caught in its stinking white cloud of chemicals. I’ve always wondered just what was in the horrible concoction, but until recently no one could tell me.
Trudy Rilling-Collins, a scientist with a degree in biological control of insects from University of California Berkeley, filled me in. “From my international experience I’ve learned that virtually all of the chemical pesticides used in fogging and water-based spraying targeting adult mosquitoes are neurotoxins designed to short-circuit the nervous system of the insect. The white cloud you see in fogging is neurotoxic pesticides in a diesel fuel carrier. These pesticides pose some serious human health risks and can damage ocean ecosystems, killing fish and other organisms at extremely low concentrations. And there’s increasing evidence that autoimmune diseases are on the rise and our environmental exposure to toxins and chemicals is fueling that risk.
“Fogging to control mosquitoes simply does not work. Resorts spraying two or even three times a day for many years see virtually no reduction in mosquito numbers. Fogging and spraying targets winged adults but because mosquitoes become resistant to pesticides quickly, chemical pesticides become ineffective in a very short time. Another big problem is that fogging and spraying of pesticides does nothing to address the root of the problem which is mosquitoes breeding in water. Research clearly shows that one of the best mosquito control strategies is elimination of mosquitoes while they are trapped in water in the larval stage.
“I’ve been surprised to find that in my travels around Bali quite a number of places that market themselves as eco-resorts with organic gardens are still fogging for mosquitoes with pesticides.”
Fogging and spraying of chemical pesticides is very common across Bali; most people aren’t aware that there’s an effective alternative. But Trudy has proved repeatedly that resorts in the tropics can save much money while effectively controlling mosquitoes without using chemical pesticides of any kind.
In 2011 Trudy spent two months on a resort island in the Maldives that measured just 200m x 600m. She was horrified to find that the resort was fogged and sprayed three times daily with neurotoxic pesticides for mosquito control, and that this had been going on for the nine years since the resort was built.
Despite the intense pesticide fogging and spraying, mosquito populations remained high and guest complaints were common. Trudy spent several days investigating mosquito breeding on the island and then went to the General Manager with a proposal to try a new approach. She suggested environmentally responsible mosquito control without pesticides. He agreed.
“Just five days later the resort stopped all of the fogging and spraying of chemical pesticides they had been doing for the past nine years; it was no longer necessary. I checked every container, septic tank and tree hole on the island which took some time, but it quickly reached a point where one trained Mosquito Controller could manage it. The hotel had been spending about US $25,000 a year on pesticides and diesel fuel for fogging and spraying, so this was a substantial saving. Management and guests were delighted.” Trudy continues to consult for resorts and villas in the Maldives, Thailand, Bali and the Caribbean.
“Trudy’s environmentally responsible mosquito control projects have been extremely successful at Como Shambhala, Uma and most recently at Amanpuri in Thailand,” says Paul Linder, who has been General Manager at all three resorts. “Trudy and her team are experts at finding and eliminating aquatic breeding sites in order to decrease mosquito populations. By attacking the problem at the source, it’s been possible to eliminate all spraying and fogging of chemical pesticides and adopt a more eco-friendly, environmentally responsible approach to mosquito control.”
Trudy, affectionately known as the Mosquito Lady, now works as a Consultant with a local Indonesian company PT Kontrol Nyamuk Hijau offering environmentally responsible mosquito control to resorts, villa projects, businesses and homes. She and her team of five trained technicians painstakingly investigate properties working with engineers, landscapers and maintenance teams and take the necessary steps to eradicate breeding sites. They work with management teams to develop a comprehensive collaborative plan and provide staff education. The Mosquito Lady Consulting Team can perform a preliminary consultation/audit which takes between one day and two weeks depending on the size of the property. The consult can either be a one time stand alone project, or be followed up with weekly checking of the property by the Mosquito Lady Consulting Team.
Trudy now consults for several leading hotel chains. She also designs educational workshops to help Balinese understand how to control mosquitoes at work and in their own compounds. Constant follow-up is essential to long term control.
“Unfortunately for us, the Aedes mosquito is very highly adapted for survival. They breed in containers and rest in dark, humid, cool places like closets or corners of the garden, making control very difficult. The females lay their eggs in dry areas above the water line. It’s very tricky for the common homeowner to control mosquitoes because although they lay 150 eggs at a time, they will lay at multiple concealed sites, just a few eggs in 10 or 15 different places.”
These eggs are viable for a year in dry conditions and can easily be transported around the world in this dormant state. Within hours of becoming wet, they will hatch. The adult Aedes mosquito lives for one month and can lay 300 – 450 eggs during her lifetime in multiple locations.
It’s ironic that Homo sapiens are smart enough to invent all kinds of amazing devices, transplant organs and work all kinds of other technical magic but cannot eradicate mosquitoes. The mosquito is the toughest, most resilient and dangerous creature on the planet.
It’s been pretty quiet on the dengue fever front lately, but inevitably the virus will reappear here in Bali. Dengue fever was first recorded in Java in 1969 and since then the number of infections continues to increase annually. According to a 2017 study in Epidemiology and Infection, dengue fever is significantly under-reported in Indonesia. In 2015 the number of infections was reported at between 700,000- 800,000 and hospitalizations at 200,000. More bad news; the female mozzie has evolved to carry the virus from the larval stage, so it’s no longer necessary to bite an infected human in order to spread the disease.
I’ve had it twice, so I take dengue fever quite personally. Chikungunya and Zika, the newest viruses on the block, have similar symptoms and are also carried by Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus, the little buzzers which bite early morning and late afternoon.
Trudy offered to check my property for larvae. After 25 years in Asia I thought I knew about mosquitoes, but I was shocked by the number of breeding sites she found around my house. After 90 minutes of poking around and investigating I had 11 urgent locations to deal with, with larvae found in the pond overflow, vases, gutters, water tanks and certain plants.
Trudy’s motto is, “Superior mosquito control with zero pesticide use.” Get the full story at www.mosquitolady.com or email her at email@example.com
Copyright © 2018 Greenspeak
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Ibu Kat’s book of stories
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