Part of the Bay Area News Group

Archive for the 'Pesticide' Category

Dead birds falling from sky: Recent bird kills only tip of the iceberg

Wind turbines, Altamont Pass, Calif. Photo by Mike Parr, American Bird Conservancy.
wind turbines mike parr ABC

Recent bird kills are only the tip of the iceberg

I just received the following News Release relating to the recent reports of thousands of dead birds falling from the sky in Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas, and Sweden. I thought you might find it interesting. I sure do. /Gary

(Washington, D.C., January 6, 2011) Recent reports of thousands of dead birds falling from the sky in Arkansas, while getting much attention in the press, only represent a tiny fraction of birds killed each year due to human causes, according to American Bird Conservancy, the nation’s leading bird conservation organization.

“There are many human-related causes of bird mortality including buildings, outdoor cats, pesticides, communication towers, automobiles, wind farms, and lead poisoning from spent ammunition and lost fishing tackle. But because most of the deaths from those sources often occur in ones or twos, they often go unnoticed or unreported,” said ABC Vice President Mike Parr.
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, January 7th, 2011
Under: Birds, Cats, Pesticide, Wind Turbines | No Comments »

Rodent pest control: Use caution when using poison bait

Ground squirrel. Photo by Brian Murphy, Walnut Creek, CA.
ground squirrel3

More problems with using poison to control rodents. There’s the risk of secondary poisoning of wildlife and pets as suggested in the DFG news release below. There is also the risk of direct poisoning of wildlife and pets around your house and yard when you use these poisons.

Rats and mice sometimes carry pieces of poison bait from supposedly safe bait stations used around your home and leave these pieces of poison bait lying in unprotected places in your yard or house where pets (or children!), or other wild creatures can find them.  If you must control rodents, I recommend using traps and NOT poisons. /Gary

DFG News, Aug. 17, 2010:
Wildlife Experts Issue Warning about Controlling Rodent Pests with Poison

State and county officials remind Californians to use caution when using poison baits (rodenticides) to control rodent pests. Careless use of these chemicals has injured and killed wildlife and pets throughout the state.
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, August 18th, 2010
Under: Ground squirrels, Pest control, Pesticide, Pets & Poisons, Poison, Rat poison | 3 Comments »

Endosulfan: EPA moves to cancel all uses of this toxic pesticide

Endosulfan is toxic to cedar waxwings and other birds (Amanda Rose/El Sobrante, CA)
waxwings2, amanda rose, el sobrante

Finally! The Environmental protection Agency is canceling all uses of the toxic pesticide, Endosulfan! About time. This is VERY nasty stuff! /Gary


EPA Moves to Cancel All Uses of Toxic Pesticide Endosulfan

(Washington, D.C.,  June  29, 2010) — American Bird Conservancy today hailed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) decision to end all U.S. uses of the insecticide endosulfan (trade name: Thiodan prior to 2002 and later called Thionex) which has been found to pose reproductive and neurological risks to birds, other wildlife and humans.
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, July 1st, 2010
Under: Birds, Pesticide | 1 Comment »

EPA asked to ban import of food containing deadly pesticide residues

ABC image

American Bird Conservancy Petitions EPA to Ban Import of Food Containing deadly Pesticide Residues

The American Bird Conservancy has petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to ban the import of crops containing any residues of 13 pesticides that are banned or restricted for use in the United States. These pesticides are highly toxic to birds, but are commonly used on crops throughout Latin America where many species of U.S. migratory birds spend the winter months.  In addition to the environmental risks to birds, several of these chemicals also pose a risk to agricultural workers.

“Allowing residues of these hazardous pesticides on imported food gives tacit U.S. approval to foreign countries to use chemicals that are known to be deadly to U.S. migratory birds,” said Dr. Michael Fry, American Bird Conservancy’s Director of Conservation Advocacy.  “EPA has an obligation under Executive Order 13186, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and the Endangered Species Act to ensure that migratory birds are not harmed.”
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, August 4th, 2009
Under: Pesticide | No Comments »

Bees are dying … don’t spray the flowers!

I found this in my morning mail:

I wrote the letter below to send to the editor, but decided to pass it to you instead. I am not asking you to reprint it, just use whatever parts you may find suitable. There is just no need for people to be spraying so much pesticides in the first place, and don’t they know how much humans need bees? (Elwira Stankiewicz)

Bees have been lately in the news, with their mysterious and frightening disappearances. Our bee disappearance in the Estates neighborhood of Concord, California, was not quite so mysterious, but it certainly was frightening and heartbreaking.

Right after Easter our bees started suddenly dying. They crawled in masses away from their home, twitching and jerking (it is a dying bee’s last gift to her sisters to take herself away). Thousands died inside, littering the top and bottom of the hive. Many just never made it home. In a few days our beautiful happy hive has gone silent and still. Dreaded Colony Collapse Disorder?

Nope. According to a professional beekeeper I consulted, it was a simple case of one of our neighbors, somewhere within a half mile most likely, going too happy with a can of pesticide.

Perhaps the people who did it saw bugs around their backyard and sprayed everything. Perhaps they even believed bees attack people, while pesticides are harmless to children. But whether the cause was indifference or ignorance, the bees that only pollinate our gardens died.

It seems like a microcosm of what’s happening on a larger scale. In coming years, while someone enjoys a buzz-free yard, the rest of the neighborhood will ponder the low yields in backyard gardens. And while our chemical agricultural practices persist, wild bees disappear and commercial beekeepers go bankrupt, U.S. consumers will ponder skyrocketing prices of produce dependent on bees for pollination, and not just almonds.

There are products to repel or destroy pests in garden and home that are safe to humans and bees. Diatomaceous earth is by far my favorite, a true gardener’s best friend. There are wasp repellent sprays that do not harm picnickers (or nearby bees). And even commercial pest control companies have options for keeping “bugs” away without wiping out all the beneficial insects at the same time, and they usually know it is against the law to apply pesticides while bees are foraging.

But my bees are out of there. We moved what bees remained to a new, hopefully cleaner place in hope the queen was not fed the poison, and lives and enough of them survive to nurse the next generation.

So, there is hope for them. But is there a hope for humanity when many of us don’t realize “environment” is not some leftist/commie/liberal slogan, but the food on our table, our own health, and our survival as a species?

Sad bee friend in Concord, CA (Elwira Stankiewicz)

“About a third of the American diet can be traced back to bees,” says May Berenbaum, head of the department of entomology at the University of Illinois. Honeybees pollinate the flowers of an alphabet of crops: almonds, apples, asparagus, avocados, blueberries, broccoli, cantaloupe, celery, cherries, cranberries … the list goes on and on and on. Think about it. No pollination … no crops.

Want to hear something shocking? More pesticides are sprayed, dusted, dumped and poured in suburban and urban backyards than on all the farms in the country.

Just walk into any hardware or garden supply store … or down certain aisles in your local supermarket … and take a BIG sniff. Ah … the bittersweet smell of poisons … just waiting for you to take them home and use them!

Hungry? Don’t spray pesticides in your yard! /Gary

Posted on Friday, March 28th, 2008
Under: Bee decline, beekeeper, bees, Pesticide | 3 Comments »

Pet owners unintentionally harm thousands of pets each year

In the average household, many pets are only one bite away from disaster.

I found this information in my morning mail. It’s definitely worth a read:
Veterinary Pet Insurance of Brea, California, recently analyzed its medical claims data to determine the most commonly ingested household toxins and poisons. VPI ranked the toxic substances by the number of claims received in 2007 for each type.

Shockingly, the most dangerous poisons by far appear to be human medications intentionally given to pets by their owners!

Here is the list of top household toxins, with 2007 claim counts and prevention pointers for each.

1. Drug Reactions (3,455 claims) — VPI received more claims for drug reactions than all other poisoning claims combined in 2007. Many of these claims involved pets given drugs intended for human consumption, such as over-the-counter pain relievers. Pet owners often give pets over-the-counter or prescription drugs for their ailments, unaware that even given in small amounts, many of these drugs cannot be metabolized by pets fast enough to prevent an overdose. Never give pets medications without consulting a veterinarian.

2. Rodenticide (870 claims) — Even if these poisons, most often sold in pellet form, are placed away from pets, rodents can carry them to pet-occupied areas. The taste and smell of rodenticides is designed to appeal to small mammals. Pet owners should consider other options for eliminating rodents.

3. Methylxanthine (755 claims) — The methylxanthine class of chemical compounds includes theobromine and caffeine, both of which are common ingredients in chocolate. Toxic amounts of theobromine can cause vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, hyperactivity, abnormal rhythms of the heart, or even seizures in pets. Unsweetened baking chocolate contains much higher levels of theobromine than milk chocolate, causing toxicity with the consumption of much smaller amounts.

4. Plant Poisoning (466 claims) — Many household plants can be toxic to pets, including sago palms, tulips, oleander, hyacinths, poinsettias, azaleas, lilies, and amaryllis. Other plant products including onions, grapes and raisins are also categorized under the company’s plant toxicity code. Pet owners should exercise extra caution when pets are near these plants and abstain from giving grapes and raisins as treats.

5. Household Chemicals (313 claims) — Pets will get into just about anything with bright colors and strong odors. Ingestion of cleaning supplies such as bleach, liquid potpourri, even deodorant or toiletries can result in an ill pet. Keep these items secured.

6. Metaldehyde (88 claims) — This deadly component of snail bait can also attract pets. Signs usually occur quickly and include vomiting and whole body tremors. Pet owners should consider alternative methods for getting rid of snails and slugs.

7. Organophosphate (60 claims) — This group of insecticides works to inactivate acetylcholinesterase, which is essential to nerve function in insects and pets. Ingestion can occur through skin absorption or oral intake. The chemicals degrade quickly after being sprayed outside, but pets should not be exposed to any area that has recently been sprayed.

8. Toad Poisoning (58 claims) — Some species of toad, particularly along the Gulf Coast, secrete a toxic substance when threatened — or licked by curious dogs. Toxic effects are immediate and can be life-threatening. Make sure to regularly monitor pets when outdoors to reduce exposure to hazardous creatures.

9. Heavy metals (48 claims) — Mercury, lead or excessive amounts of zinc, iron, cobalt and copper can cause serious illness in pets, especially if allowed to accumulate in a pet’s body. Pets may be exposed to heavy metals through lead-based paint, ingestion of pennies coined after 1982, vitamins, soil contamination, or water pollutants.

10. Antifreeze (36 claims) — The sweet taste of antifreeze appeals to pets. While most people are aware of the poisonous potential of antifreeze, they may not notice a pool collecting from a leak beneath a car. Regularly give a glance beneath the car and clean any spills immediately.

Please make sure the above information doesn’t apply to you.

Are you using poisons in your house or yard? Don’t. Are you giving human drugs to your pets WITHOUT the recommendation of your veterinarian? Don’t. Do you have any poisonous plants in your house? Get rid of them. Is there any spilled antifreeze on your garage floor? Clean it up.

And PLEASE make sure you know the phone number and location of the nearest Veterinary Emergency Clinic to your house … just in case. The life you save may be that of your beloved pet. /Gary

Posted on Monday, March 24th, 2008
Under: Cats, dogs, Pesticide, Poison, Poisonous plants, Toxic | No Comments »

Victory for child safety, birds and other wildlife

EPA to put limits on toxic rat poisons

According to an American Bird Conservancy news tipsheet dated March 13:

“The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a proposed mitigation plan for rat poisons in the Federal Register that should greatly reduce accidental poisonings of kids, birds and other wildlife. This is an important victory that ABC has sought for many years following the deaths of thousands of birds of prey, including great horned owls, golden eagles, and bald eagles and up to 15,000 poisonings of children each year.

“EPA will restrict the use of three rodenticides targeted by ABC — brodifacoum, bromodialone, and difethialone — to certified pesticide applicators. These three chemicals have the greatest potential for poisoning wild birds and scavenging mammals that eat poisoned rodents. In addition, all over-the-counter sales of other rodenticides will now have to be in tamper-resistant bait stations. The new regulations will limit the indiscriminate use of these highly toxic chemicals, and the tamper-resistant bait stations will also help prevent accidental child poisonings.

“EPA will be accepting public comments until May 18, followed by a review of comments, and then a final rule. The federal register notice is available at EPA’s Web site, — docket number EPA-HQ-OPP-2006-0955.

“For more information, contact Michael Fry, ABC’s Pesticides and Birds Program Director,”

While it’s wonderful that the EPA is finally getting around to restricting these pesticides, it always amazes me how long it sometimes takes them to do things like this. Especially when “up to” 15,000 children are poisoned annually. That’s totally unacceptable.

When I was Curator of the Lindsay Wildlife Museum in Walnut Creek, Calif., back in 1967-1978, while caring for and rehabilitating injured and orphaned wild animals, we regularly treated red-tailed hawks that were suffering from secondary poisoning after foraging on the carcasses of ground squirrels that had been killed by rodent poisons. Some of these birds were saved by our creative and quick-thinking veterinarians, but most of the raptors died.

Finally, almost 30 years later, it looks like a governmental agency may finally do something to (hopefully) keep these beautiful raptors, and lots of other predators and wild scavengers from dying.

Cross your fingers and dwell on that thought.

American Bird Conservancy works to conserve native wild birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. For more information see

Posted on Wednesday, March 14th, 2007
Under: Pesticide | No Comments »

West Nile mosquito spraying kills other insects

The following brief from the Associated Press appeared in today’s Contra Costa Times "Around The State" section:

"Sacramento — Mosquito spray deployed this summer in the Central Valley exterminated more than the targeted insect, killing ants, beetles, midges and other tiny creatures, according to field samplings by UC Davis.

"The Sacramento-Yolo Mosquito and Vector Control District hired pilots to spray the skies above Davis and Woodland for two nights in August. The EverGreen Crop Protection EC 60-6, a short-lived pesticide, was aimed at killing enough mosquitoes to break a cycle of West Nile virus infection that can move from bird to bug to human.

"The spraying spared larger insects such as dragonflies and butterflies. But Walter Boyce, co-director of the UC Davis Wildlife Health Center, said researchers should study the effects of the insecticide on threatened or endangered bugs."

I couldn’t agree more with Walter’s statement. It’s very important to do what we can to stop the spread of the West Nile virus in California and other states, and one immediate action that can be taken is to kill the mosquitoes that carry the virus. People are dying from this deadly disease.

But right now there’s a LOT of insecticide spraying going on throughout the state of California and it offers researchers a unique opportunity to study the secondary effects of this spraying on other non-target species of insects.(This is all the more important since I recall that there was some talk early on by a few mosquito and vector control districts that this spraying would only kill mosquitoes.)

Walter suggests they focus on threatened and endangered insects, but I think we should take a look at the effects on ALL species of insects.

Threatened and endangered bugs are important because their populations are already dangerously low. But common insects are also important because they are food sources for many species of birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles. And maybe somewhere down the line, they also feed other threatened of endangered creatures.

These studies might also uncover a method of controlling the West Nile virus that doesn’t affect non-target species. That would be nice.

Posted on Monday, October 9th, 2006
Under: Mosquitoes, Pesticide, West Nile virus | 4 Comments »