CANCELLING THE AERIAL MOSQUITO PROGRAM

Updated: Jun 30


Yesterday, Council voted 9-4 to suspend the Aerial Mosquito Program and reallocate the funding to an “education campaign and biological pest control measures”. I was not in favour of the change — particularly with such a short window to implement it — and I wanted to share a bit of information with residents about my decision.

A year ago, the previous Council was faced with a similar vote when I brought forward a motion to reinstate the program for a season while we evaluated future funding. That motion passed and the positive response from constituents was resounding. I share the same concerns that many residents have shared with me about the cancellation of the current mosquito control program. Our summers are short here in Edmonton and being able to enjoy our time outdoors is immensely important to our quality of life. Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, those outdoor spaces have become all the more important. Just over the weekend, a walk through a few of our major city parks showed me that those spaces are still important to residents. It’s clear to me that many Edmontonians see value in this program. I wholly support effective biological pest control, which is why I supported the City’s existing aerial mosquito program. For those unaware, the City’s method of mosquito control utilized Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis (Bti) — a bacterial larvicide naturally occurring in soil — that specifically targets only the larvae of mosquito, blackflies, and other midge species. Applied to ground up corn cobs, it was dropped via helicopters at close range and manually sprayed in temporary water bodies and ditches outside of the city. The main concern with this method is the availability of a food source for birds and other animals that rely on them, but any measure of effective mosquito control will have the exact same result.

We heard from an expert within City Administration yesterday that what is being touted as a better alternative will not be effective — the dragonflies and bats cannot keep up with the numbers of mosquitoes and both methods have already been trialed by the City. We also heard that the alternatives residents will choose themselves are significantly more damaging to pollinators, birds, and even pets. There are no plants that are truly effective at repelling mosquitoes just by being planted; rather, it’s the oils within the plant that require a level of processing to repel.

The City’s mosquito aerial program was a complex, ecologically-sensitive, well-planned, and well-researched method of natural mosquito population control approved by Health Canada and recommended by the World Health Organization. They were not spraying harmful pesticides from helicopters, but even some of the headlines I’m seeing today imply otherwise. The City may not always get it right, but sometimes they really do. I would strongly advise my colleagues to carefully consider the advice given by Administration and their expertise before making drastic changes that will have real and measurable effects on how Edmontonians can enjoy their city.

This past winter, we saw heavy precipitation, and we are facing a wet spring and summer. I hope that I am wrong about the consequences of this decision, but what is much more likely is that Council will see our inboxes fill up throughout the summer with residents disappointed in the choice that has been made on their behalf.

-Sarah

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