Insect spraying: rethink needed

Published in Poisons Beware

The campaign to eliminate mosquitoes through routine insect spraying is not working! And it's dangerous. We at Eco Hvar are asking for change.


From Jelsa Council: "The insect spraying programme, as a means of protecting the population against infectious diseases is carried out in order to eliminate mosquito larvae, thus removing the possibility for mosquitoes to develop and multiply, in this way reducing damage to the environment and people" (e-mail, 11.08.2017.)*


Infectious diseases like Dengue and West Nile Fever are extremely rare in Croatia1,2,3,4. Despite this, insect spraying in the form of 'fogging' against adult mosquitoes is carried out on Hvar three times during the high summer tourist season, and there are separate actions against mosquito larvae and flies at various times throughout the year.

The insect control actions have been carried out for years without adhering fully to the regulations laid down by the County Public Health Institute: 

i) for the fogging, pesticides have been used as a cocktail, whose potential ill-effects are totally unknown;

ii) the very serious possible adverse effects of the pesticides have not been advertised; 

iii) little or no use has been made of environmentally-friendly alternatives to poisons;

iv) there is no public education about pest control;

v) warnings about the 'fogging' actions have been totally inadequate;

vi) the routes taken by the 'fogging' vehicle has not been made public;

vii) the fogging spraying has been done without regard to the vineyards, olive groves, orchards and vegetable plots alongside the roads;

viii) the larvicide and fly control measures have not been publicized at all;

ix) at local level, it seems that the poison spraying programme is not under strict supervision and control, as it should be according to the regulations;

x) it seems that no-one at local or national level is monitoring the effectiveness and possible ill-effects relating to the spraying programme: despite regular insect suppression measures, every year there are increasing numbers of mosquitoes, as they become resistant to the poisons used 5,6,7; at the same time, there has been a visible significant decline in numbers of birds. bats, and beneficial insects.

Warning to beekeepers, Croatian Beekepers' Association


POISONS USED: In 2012, two pyrethroid insecticides were used on Hvar for the 'fogging', a combination of Permethrin and Cypermethrin; in 2014, the spray used across the Jelsa Council area was Permex 22E (active ingredients Permethrin and Tetramethrin, in combination with a synergist, Piperonyl Butoxide); in 2015 Microfly (Cypermethrin),and Twenty-one (Azamethiphos) were used against flies; in 2017, fogging in the Hvar Town, Stari Grad and Jelsa rtegions was carried out using Permex 22E and Cipex (Cypermethrin). Microfly (Cypermethrin) and Muhomor (Azamethiphos) were used against flies, around the rubbish bins and rubbish dumps. Azamethiphos is an organophosphate, the others are pyrethroids.

Pyrethroids8 are dangerous poisons 9,10,11. Each of the poisons is dangerous in its own right, not only for insects but for other living creatures. We have not found any justification for such mixtures of poisons to be used for street spraying, or for spraying mosquito habitats. The effects of such cocktails are not recorded in scientific resources. This way of using the poisons is not wholly in keeping with the manufacturers' instructions.


In 2017, a cocktail of three pyrethroids was used for 'fogging' in the Jelsa area. There is no scientific basis or justification for using such a combination of poisons. Of the active substances, some are not registered for use in the European Union. The overnight 'fogging' took place in June, July and August.

Cipex - active ingredient Cypermethrin12 (pyrethroid). Cypermethrin is very toxic to cats13, bees, aquatic insects and fish, and to a lesser degree to birds. In humans, Cypermethrin poisoning can give rise to numbness, burning, loss of bladder control, vomiting, loss of co-ordination, coma, seizures, and (rarely) death 14,15,16. It is classified in the United States as a possible cause of cancer17.

Permex 22E- the two active pyrethroid ingredients of Permethrin and Tetramethrin. Permethrin 18,19comes in many different formulations, some more poisonous than others. It is highly toxic to bees, sea organisms, fish20 and other animals21. It is also poisonous to cats22. The possible ill-effects on humans are considered less dramatic than those of Cypermethrin, but it can cause neurological damage23,24, as well as problems in the immune and endocrine systems. It can have a particularly bad effect on children, and the American Environmental Protection Agency classified it as a potential carcinogen in 2006.25 Given their known ill-effects on aquatic life-forms, pyrethroids must not be used near water sources. Also Permethrin is not allowed on places where animals forage for food.

PERMETHRIN WAS NOT ON THE LIST OF INSECTICIDES AUTHORIZED IN THE EU as at 2016 through to 2020. However, the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), as at October 2018, listed 167 approved permethrin-based products, which did not include Permex 22E. In 2020, Permex 22E was not on the (FIS) approved list for use in Croatia.

The EPA registration document for Tetramethrin (2010)26 classified it as a potential human carcinogen, and identified it as extremely toxic to bees and aquatic organisms, including fish and aquatic invertebrates. It can cause dizziness, breathing difficulties, coughing, eye irritation, gastrointestinal upset, blisters and skin rashes. The EPA document stated that: "Tetramethrin is used by individual home-owners or industrial / commercial property owners, in individual, isolated areas, and in small amounts as opposed to wide scale uses (i.e., for agriculture or mosquito abatement by public authorities)." 27 For this reason, they did not test the effect of Tetramethrin on drinking water. Tetramethrin is not supposed to be used on or near foodstuffs27.


Microfly - active ingredient Cypermethrin.

Muhomor - active ingredient Azamethiphos28, an organophosphate poison which is not on the list of insecticides approved in the European Union.29,30. The instructions state that it should only be applied to target surfaces, and not sprayed in the air. Muhomor AZ was the product used for spraying around dustbins and rubbish dumps on Hvar in 2017. It is a water-soluble insecticide designed to eliminate flies in stalls for cattle, calves, horses, pigs, and chickens31. It is mostly used in enclosed spaces. As at October 2018, it was not on the list of products authorized by the European Chemicals Agency.



According to the published Programme of Measures for Compulsory Pest Control 2017, published by the Town Wardens' Office, five pyrethroids were listed for use in the summertime 'fogging' actions: Cypermethrin, Deltamethrin32, D-Phenothrin33, Permethrin and Resmethrin34 (p.9, table 2 in the Programme). Of these five insecticides, three were no longer on the list of pesticides authorized for use in the EU.

Phenothrin is especially toxic to cats35, bees36 and aquatic organisms37.


Resmethrin is particularly poisonous to fish, also to birds, and is potentially harmful for humans38. It has been banned from sale in the United States since 201539.


BEES: All the poisons named here are toxic to bees. As long ago as 1998, Permethrin, d-Phenothrin and Resmethrin were included in a list of insecticides known to be particularly harmful to bees, with effects lasting even some time after application40.

RE THE WARNINGS AND ANNOUNCEMENTS. We are talking here about very dangerous substances, yet warnings are minimal: Jelsa Council places a letter from the firm which carries out the poison spraying on the Council's public notice boards. Stari Grad announces it on its website. There is no warning through the media, nothing via the Tourist Offices. Beekeepers are not given special warning, even though they stand to suffer loss. The warnings are not given in any language other than Croatian, even though the spraying takes place during the high season.

Local citizens and visitors have the right to be fully informed about the spraying programme. There should be public announcements, detailing the substances to be used; the complete map of the route the 'fogger' will take; the method of administering the spray; and the precise timing of the action.

Local authorities which order the 'fogging' actions are duty-bound to inform local inhabitants and guests through all available channels, and in all relevant languages.

Public warning - but did anyone notice?


The insect suppression programme as carried out on Hvar over the past few years is potentially damaging for human health, also for animals, birds, non-target insects and the environment. This insect spraying programme is in no way achieving its aims. The way in which it is being carried out is not transparent, and on many counts it is not acceptable.


Given that the risks of infectious diseases from mosquitoes are small, while the risks of spraying poisons over public areas are much greater, the current programme of summer spraying should be stopped as a matter of urgency, and alternative methods of controlling unwanted insects should be explored, as allowed for in the Regulations governing compulsory insect control.

A tactic: poison companies use cartoon images to mask the serious risks from insecictides

© Vivian Grisogono MA(Oxon) 2017, amended August 2020.

* Original: "program dezinsekcije kao mjere zaštite pučanstva od zaraznih bolesti provodi se kako bi se suzbila ličinka komaraca te uklonili uvjeti za razvoj i razmnožavanje, a time smanjila šteta za okoliš i zdravlje ljudi."

FOOTNOTE: For more details about the pesticides used on Hvar, their possible adverse effects, and up-to-date information on their EU approval status, click here. For an explanation of the approvals processes in the EU and Croatia, click here.


1. Gjenero-Margan, I., Aleraj, B., Krajcar, D., Lesnikar, V., Klobučar, A., Pem-Novosel, I., Kurečić-Filipović, S., Komparak, S., Martić, R., Đuričić, S., Betica-Radić, L., Okmadžić, J., Vilibić-Čavlek, T., Babić-Erceg, A., Turković, B., Avšić-Županc, T., Radić, I., Ljubić, M., Šarac, K., Benić, N., Mlinarić-Galinović, G. 2011. Autochthonous dengue fever in Croatia, August–September 2010. Eurosurveillance, 16 (9).

2. Pem-Novosel, I., Vilibic-Cavlek, T., Gjenero-Margan, I., Kaic, B., Babic-Erceg, A., Merdic, E., Medic, A., Ljubic, M., Pahor, D., Erceg, M. 2015. Dengue virus infection in Croatia: seroprevalence and entomological study. New Microbiologica, 38, 97-100.

3. Barbić L, Listeš E, Katić S, Stevanović V, Madić J, Starešina V, Labrović A, Di Gennaro A, Savini G. 2012. Spreading of West Nile virus infection in Croatia. Veterinary Microbiology. 159(3-4):504-8.

4. European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. (Provides regular updates on the spread of communicable diseases in Europe)

5. Weill, M., Lutfalla, G., Mogensen, K., Chandre, F., Berthomieu, A., Berticat, C., Pasteur, N., Philips, A., Fort, P., Raymond, M. 2003. Comparative genomics: Insecticide resistance in mosquito vectors. Nature 423: 136-137 (8 May 2003)

6. Owusu, H. F. Jančáryová, D., Malone, D., Müller, P.. 2015. Comparability between insecticide resistance bioassays for mosquito vectors: time to review current methodology? Parasites and Vectors 8: 357

7. Aguirre-Obando, O. A., Pietrobon, A. J.. DallaBona, A. C., Navarro-Silva, M. A. 2015. Contrasting patterns of insecticide resistance and knockdown resistance (kdr) in Aedes aegypti populations from Jacarezinho (Brazil) after a Dengue Outbreak. Revista Brasileira de Entomologia 60:1 94-100 (January–March 2016)

8. EPA Information Sheet. 2016. Pyrethrins and Pyrethroids. (information on the use of pyrethrins and pyrethroids as insecticides, the current reevaluation of this group of pesticides in registration review, and previous assessments, decisions, and risk mitigation efforts.)

9. Beyond Pesticides. 2001. chemicalWATCH factsheet: Synthetic Pyrethroids.

10. Walters, J.K., Boswell, L.E., Green, M.K., Heumann, M.A., Karam, L.E., Morrissey, B.F., Waltz, J.E. 2009. Pyrethrin and Pyrethroid Illnesses in the Pacific Northwest: A Five-Year Review. Public Health Reports 124 (1): 149-159

11. Ingram E.M., Augustin, J., Ellis, M.D., Siegfried, B.D. 2015. Evaluating sub-lethal effects of orchard-applied pyrethroids using video-tracking software to quantify honey bee behaviors. Chemosphere 135: 272-277

12. TOXNET Toxicology Data Network (U.S.National Library of Medicine). Cypermethrin.

13. updated 2017. CYPERMETHRIN, safety summary for veterinary use.

14. Cornell University, (Extoxnet). 1993. Pesticide Information profile: Cypermethrin.

15. PubChem Open Chemistry Database. 2005. Cypermethrin.

16. Aggarwal, P., Jamshed, N., Ekka, M., Imran A. 2015. Suicidal poisoning with cypermethrin: A clinical dilemma in the emergency department. Journal of Emergencies, Trauma and Shock. 8:2 123-125.

17. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Office of Pesticide Programs. 2016. Chemicals Evaluated for Carcinogenic Potential. Annual Cancer Report.

18. World Health Organization. 2006. "International Program on Chemical Safety, Environmental Health Criteria 92: Permethrin."

19. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 2002. "TRI Explorer: Providing Access to EPA's Toxic Release Inventory Data."

20. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. August 2009. Permethrin Facts.

21. Hoffmann, M., Meléndez, J.L., Ruhman, M.A., 2008. Risks of Permethrin Use to the Federally Threatened California Red-legged Frog (Rana aurora draytonii) and Bay Checkerspot Butterfly (Euphydryas editha bayensis), and the Federally Endangered California Clapper Rail (Rallus longirostris obsoletus), Salt Marsh Harvest Mouse (Reithrodontomys raviventris), and San Francisco Garter Snake (Thamnophis sirtalis tetrataenia). Environmental Fate and Effects Division Office of Pesticide Programs, Washington, D.C. 20460

22. International Cat Care. Permethrin Poisoning in Cats.

23. U.S. Centers for Disease Control (ATSDR). 2003. "Toxicological Profile for Pyrethrins and Pyrethroids."

24. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 2006. "Reregistration Eligibility Decision (RED) for Permethrin."

25. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 2007. Permethrin & Resmethrin (Pyrethroids), Toxicity and Exposure Assessment for Children's Health. TEACH Chemical summary.

26. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 2008, revised 2010. Reregistration Eligibility Decision Document for Tetramethrin.

27. Thoreby, E. (author), Williams, M.M. (editor), Lah, K. (updater) 2011. Tetramethrin. Toxipedia.

28. Scottish Environment Protection Agency. Azamethiphos. Scottish Pollutant Release Directory.

29. University of Hertfordshire. Azamethiphos. Veterinary Substances Database.

30. Pesticides Action Network (PAN) Europe. 2006. What substances are banned and authorized in the EU market?

31. Muhomor. 2017.  Muhomot je insekticid topiv u vodi. Djelatna tvar: Azametifos u koncentraciji 10%. Genera, Jedna komapnija za Jedno zdravlje.

32. PubChem, Open Chemistry Database. 2017. Deltamethrin.

33. PubChem, Open chemistry Database. 2017. D-Phenothrin.

34. US EPA Archive Document. 2007. Permethrin and Resmethrin (Pyrethroids). TEACH Chemical Summary.

35. Parasitipedia. 2017. Phenothrin: safety summary for veterinary use.

36. US EPA. 2008. Reregistration Eligibility Decision for d-Phenothrin.

37. WHO/FAO 1994. d-Phenothrin. WHO/FAO Data Sheet on Pesticides no.85.

38. PubChem Open Chemistry Database. 2017. Resmethrin.

39. US EPA. 2011. Permethrin, Resmethrin, d-Phenothrin (Sumithrin®): Synthetic Pyrethroids for Mosquito Control.

40. Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities. 1998. Protecting honey bees from pesticides.

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