Mosquitos and Butterflies

Jorge Milanes Despaigne

For several years now, the anti-mosquito campaign here in Havana has brought with it an infinite number of home inspections with the aim of protecting the public’s health.

People are urged to empty all bottles, put tops on them or let them stand upside down. Trash should be put in plastic bags, always tied shut; also cans (soda cans as well as beer cans) should be bagged and thrown away, as should egg shells. This campaign of struggle against the Aedes aegyptis vector includes public service announcements and television programs.

Refrigerators, in the overwhelming majority of homes here, have a tray where water collects in the back and the bottom of the units.

In that tray is thrown a handful of “El abate,” which is a compound that prevents the development of mosquito larvae. It always winds up quite annoying, by the way, to get that tray back in place.

A burdensome but necessary part of this campaign has been the fumigation. The heavy pieces of equipment (called bazookas by the people who do the fumigating) are carried by these strong guys who pump smoke into each corner of one’s house, even the gardens and patios. In this way the illness of yellow fever, and even others, has been controlled by public health operations across the entire country.

If there’s a person who is disabled — be they limited in movement or recently operated upon — the home is exempt from fumigation. This is consistent with the standing rule that, “Fumigation cannot worsen the health of our fellow citizens,” as TV announcer Arletis Roquefuentes always says.

For some time the numbers of fumigations have been has reduced. As a result, the well-being of the environment is palpable. Roses, carnations and orchids are now visited by butterflies, which had almost disappeared from yards and gardens due to the toxicity of the abundant smoke.

How moving it is to see them flying around again, to breathe the fragrances of the flowers, and to watch them drink the nectar of each flower as indispensable parts of the ecosystem.

But I’m afraid of the fumigators. I’m worried that soon they’ll return to their spraying…

One thought on “Mosquitos and Butterflies

  • Jorge,
    You did not mention what it is that they are spraying. What is the active agent and does it kill other beneficial insects as well as the mosquitoes ?
    I live in Massachusetts and here they use a bacterial spray call BT (bacillus Thuringiensis )which is sprayed from the back of a truck into the wooded and wet areas where mosquitoes flourish.
    Wikipedia has a good description and history of the product.
    The bacteria are toxic to only a few pests and not to other living things .
    This year in our yard and garden there has been a frightening absence or reduction in the numbers of ladybugs, butterflies, honeybees, the larger bumblebees, hornets, wasps that we normally see year to year.
    This is not attributed to the BT spraying but there is something dreadfully wrong happening.

Comments are closed.