Insect spraying: the 'fogging' practice

Would I find myself driving home through a mist of toxic chemicals if I caught the 20:30 ferry back from Split? That was the question on 27th September 2017.

Kill is no cure. Kill is no cure. Vivian Grisogono

The insect suppression 'fogging' action was to take place in the Jelsa region, starting at 10pm and lasting until 4am the following morning. Arriving in Stari Grad at 22:30 that evening might just put me in the wake of the 'fogging' vehicle if we coincided on the road to Pitve. Knowing the extremely potent cocktail which was being used in 2017 (a combination of two dangerous pyrethroids, Permethrin and Tetramethrin, and a synergist, Piperonyl Butoxide, which carried risks of its own), the thought of being suffused in it did not appeal. One evening in 2012, I was walking back to the car park in Hvar Town, when just a little way in front of me there was a violent hissing sound, and a misty cloud suddenly belched out to either side of a cumbersome van. Behind the van was a car and a motorbike, as well as a group of pedestrians. As the 'fogging' vehicle left town, several more cars followed it. As none could overtake it, they all crawled up the hill in a sad line steeped in swirling toxins. That year the two pyrethroid poisons used in combination were Permethrin and Cypermethrin. Each year pyrethroid pesticides have been applied across the environment, usually at least three times during the summer season. Pyrethroids are dangerous for humans, animals, and the environment, and of course are especially toxic for bees. As the exact route and timings of the 'fogging' are not published, it is impossible to plan one's movements to avoid the 'fogging' vehicle if one happens to be out and about during that night.

'Fogging', Hvar Town 30th July 2012. Photo: Vivian Grisogono

Insect suppression programme definitely futile

The morning after this September's 'fogging', it's a lovely sunny day in Pitve. A sparrow perches on my fence, looking a bit forlorn. Have they killed off his breakfast? Looking again, I can see swarms of insects milling around. Lots of flies and mosquitoes go about their business with vim and vigour. Clearly the attempted cull has failed. But how much collateral damage has it done? Personal experiences of the insect suppression programme indicate that the mosquitoes which survive are resistant, angry and increasingly virulent. The poisons which reach them inevitably create changes in their systems. And then there are the unwanted effects on non-target insects, especially bees.

Mosquitoes bite, OK?

Thousands of people get bitten by many thousands of mosquitoes in Croatia every year. According to official statistics, mosquito-borne diseases are not a problem. The few isolated cases of Malaria and Dengue Fever, for example, are mainly imported, usually by sailors returning from tropical countries. In countries where mosquito-borne diseases are endemic, experience has shown that trying to suppress the insects with insecticides is ineffective and counter-productive, as they rapidly become resistant to every poison used.

Mosquito at work. Photo: Vivian Grisogono

Mosquito bites are irritating, but the vast majority do not cause disease. Irritation is not a reason to eliminate a species, even if it was possible. Anyway, it is not possible, and pesticide use is simply increasing pest numbers, not reducing them. I used to be very sensitive to mosquito bites, now I am not. The change came when I started taking a vitamin B complex supplement daily. I still get bitten, but the bites do not cause significant irritation, and the marks disappear from my skin very quickly. This may not work for everyone, but it has certainly worked for many people I know.

Mosquito bite, Pitve, 28th September 2017. Photo: Vivian Grisogono

'Fogging' on Hvar

As already stated, details of the 'fogging' routes are not publicized. Having seen it, we at Eco Hvar only know for sure that the vehicle leaves Hvar Town along the road past the Police Station. In the Jelsa region it passes along the road through Vitarnja between Jelsa and Vrboska; and it goes through Gornje Pitve towards the Zavala tunnel. As it goes through Upper Pitve, it passes very close to the houses by the road, spraying the poisons at a height. The poisons therefore reach parked cars, the local rubbish bin, patios where children play and families eat their meals, gardens with fruits, vegetables, chickens and goats, wine cellars, food stores, kitchens, living rooms and bedrooms. As the warning notice posted in Jelsa on the Town Hall notice board  is seen by almost no-one, and the summer nights are hot, many people do not close their shutters.

The route through the centre of Upper Pitve

Even if we avoid direct contact with the 'fogging' vehicle, we cannot avoid coming into contact with the poisons. We breathe them in, they enter our bodies through skin contact. They don't just disappear into thin air, having done their work on the target insects during the night. The poisons settle on the surfaces where they are sprayed, and can spread over a wider area if the night is windy. The poison effects are extended for some time, possibly several days after the 'fogging' has taken place. The damage they do is not limited to the mosquitoes which are their main target victims.

The road leading towards the Pitve-Zavala tunnel

The morning after the September 2017 fogging I go down to my car, which, being parked by the road, has received a goodly dose of the poison spray. Having walked down the road, I must have picked up some poison on my shoes. I find a praying mantis fighting its shadow on the car door: has it been maddened by the poisons? Opening the door of the car, my hand is probably contaminated. The inside of the car may well have been penetrated: how much poison residue am I breathing in or touching as I drive off? The awareness is uncomfortable, much more disturbing than normal mosquito bites.

Praying mantis, 28th September 2017. Photo: Vivian Grisogono

It's time for change

Insect suppression using chemicals is not achieving its aim in Croatia and other countries. By law, there should be proper warning about the 'fogging'. It takes place during the summer season when the population of Hvar Island is multiplied several times over with guests from many different parts of the world. Locals are ill-informed, foreigners have no warning at all. Ignorance is bliss, but keeping people in the dark about an obviously dangerous practice is unacceptable and unforgiveable. Two days after the 'fogging' in our area, a shocked friend from Vrisnik reacted to the news of the spraying: "I've been eaten alive by mosquitoes all day yesterday!" When asked (by e-mail) whether she knew that her area had been sprayed two nights previously, a Stari Grad resident responded with horror: "S**t, I had no idea!!!!" 

The law and the practice urgently need to be reviewed and revised.

© Vivian Grisogono MA(Oxon), September  2017, updated January 2022

NOTES:

In February 2021 I sent a sample of my hair to be analysed for pesticides. Three were identified as being present in my system: azoxystrobine, a fungicide; glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup and other herbicides; and permethrin, the insecticide used over many years for the fogging actions, which is also used in household fly killers and anti-flea collars for dogs. As I do not use chemical pesticides, the presence of these potentially harmful substances is a very worrying indication of how badly our environment is contaminated and how much we are exposed to the poisons being used around us. The analysis was done by the Kudzu laboratory in France.

Details of the poisons used for the 'fogging'and their possible adverse effects: Pesticides, and their adverse effects; and  Pesticide Products in Croatia

Details of the insect suppression programme in Croatia and some of its failings: Poisoning Paradise, A Wake-Up Call

For more about the insect suppression programme over the years, please see our companion articles:

Insect Spraying: Save the Bees! (Eco Hvar, 2017, updated September 2021)

Insect Spraying: Rethink Needed (Eco Hvar, August, September 2017, updated September 2021)

Insect Spraying: The Campaign (Eco Hvar, 29th August 2017)

Insect Spraying: Pros and Cons (Eco Hvar, August 2014, updated September 2021)

Insecticides in the Air (Eco Hvar, 5th April 2016, 23rd July 2017)

Hvar's Health Tourism (Total Hvar 1st August 2012)

Bobi, the Dog Who Didn't Need to Die (Eco Hvar, 20th July, 4th September 2017.)

Some comments received via the Eco Hvar Facebook page:

DV: is this continuing? What about the bees? Not good. (29.09.2017., 17:35)

Eco-Hvar: Sadly, yes, continuing and escalating as horror stories do. But people are gradually coming to realise what's happening. No normal person finds the situation acceptable! We are pressing for change. (29.09.2017., 20:51)

DV: Precious tourists...... every organism has a purpose and if one removes it from the ecosystem.....something else will take that niche. There are natural insect repellents that can be used with out total destruction (30.09.2017., 07:59)

Eco-Hvar Yes, people are gradually coming to that realisation. It's a slow process changing mindsets, but we have to keep trying! (30.09.2017., 09:29)

JE This is shocking and so shortsighted. (01.10.2017., 16:15) Sad

 

 

 

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