Controlling Mosquitos while Protecting Pollinators and our Taxes

I want to make sure every tax dollar is spent effectively to maximize the best bang for our buck.
I want to clarify that the city is not stopping the ground spray of mosquitos but rather ceasing the expensive and questionable rural helicopter larvicide program.

We will still have mosquito control measures -- just not the expensive helicopter program spraying larvae in water located outside of town.

I believe that we can effectively control our mosquito population using methods that do not include pesticides. Long-term, this needs to be the priority so that we can protect the natural diversity of Edmonton. 
Here's why I voted against the helicopter program.
1) Effectiveness: There were concerns about the measurable impact in terms of precision of mosquito control. I can't justify spending money without clearer, measurable, definitive outcomes. It was imprecise in terms of the measurable impact to Edmontonians.

2) Cost: It was incredibly expensive year over year-- millions of dollars-- and unsustainable in terms of carbon emissions from using helicopters.

3) Better bang for our buck through alternatives: Bats, Dragonflys, and natural predators are much more sustainable financially and environmentally. Education to homeowners is a key component of a successful mosquito control program, as they can eliminate potential breeding areas by dumping out standing water from bird baths, wading pools and other items in their yards.

4) Ecological Harm: There were numerous concerns cited about harm from pesticides affecting water, birds, and ecosystems. We are in a climate and biodiversity crisis.
So what's the alternative? Nature-based solutions. Suppressing the problem has been hiding the solution. We can have a healthy population of mosquito-eating animals and nurture them to do this work for us-- save our tax dollars and save the planet.

To have a healthy population of mosquito-eating animals, we'll need a healthy population of mosquitos. While the ecological fix will be slower, it will be more lasting and less harmful than a quick fix.

I wanted to draw your attention to this thread by local Permaculture expert Dustin Bajer who wrote:

As insectivores increase, mosquito numbers will fall, then stabilize. How can we help? Let's build and install bat boxes & birdhouses. Let's plant shrubs that birds love. And let's install water-absorbing rain gardens and Low Impact Development (LID) projects in our yards and communities.

Bats, roosting under Austin's Congress Avenue Bridge, consume "10,000 to 30,000 pounds of insects, including mosquitoes and harmful agricultural pests" every night. From spring to early fall, Austin is home to the largest urban population of bats in the country. Find the best time and place to see these insect-eaters fly. Different bat species than we have here, but you get my point - nature has solutions if we choose to use them.
Let's talk briefly about water. Mosquito larvae need standing water. And do you know what soaks water up? Healthy soil. Could @EPCOR initiatives like Low Impact Development (LID) not also be part of the mosquito solution?

Ironically, killing a pest ensures its survival by suppressing the very things that would depend on it for food. If I spayed my aphids, I'd still be spraying them - the same is true for managing mosquitos. People need to realize that suppressing the problem has been suppressing the solution. To have a healthy population of mosquito-eating animals, we'll need a healthy population of mosquitos.

And I get it; that's not what you want to hear when you're being eaten alive - but it will get better. While the ecological fix will be slower, it will be longer-lasting and less harmful than the perpetual application of bti.

Aren't pesticides safe if they're allowed by Health Canada?

Health Canada registers pesticides based not on safety, but on "acceptable risk." Lawsuits are pending regarding Health Canada's registration of chemicals used in Edmonton, such as glyphosate (deemed a probable carcinogen by the World Health Organization). According to Health Canada's guidelines; however, a scathing audit released on March 24, 2022, showed Alberta's deficiency in enacting proper enforcement and preventing the sale of illegal pesticides. This underscores the need for municipalities to step in to protect citizens. CBC reported on this audit.

Is using Bti for spraying mosquitoes safe?

See point #2 above regarding Health Canada's registration of products. Furthermore, regardless of toxicity, killing insects impacts the ecosystem as insects are the base of the food chain. The world has experienced a global insect collapse; Canada has lost nearly one-third of birds since 1970, and we are in a global biodiversity crisis (which, the 2022 IPCC report made clear, is just as serious as, and is interconnected with, the climate crisis). The best way to protect public health is through safeguarding ecosystems.

How do we deal with the risk of diseases like West Nile?

There has only been one reported case of West Nile in Edmonton, back in 2013. (Malaria and Zika are not in Canada.) The best way to protect ourselves from zoonotic viruses is to ensure a healthy ecosystem. As we have learned from the Covid-19 pandemic, harming the ecosystem means increasing disease risk (see, for example, this interview and this article). As Dr. Meg Sears noted in her presentation, Oakville, Ontario, is West Nile's North American "hotspot". It is an affluent area of manicured lawns, without natural creeks or wetlands and no healthy populations of frogs.

Even maintaining the option for effective spraying if there is an outbreak makes no sense to spray prophylactically. Just as with antibiotic use, it is essential to keep the chemical until it is needed to avoid resistance and enable continued efficacy. And note that even malaria is now being prevented with non-pesticide methods (so that the children being protected from malaria are not, in turn exposed to DDT).

Overall, it is critical to remember that the health emergency is not to spray "weeds" or insects but rather exposure to pesticides, diseases caused by the destruction of nature, and increased antimicrobial resistance (hospital superbugs), paralleling pesticide resistance.

Public education will take time, but it is critical to our survival that we understand:

* Risks of pesticides from exposure, disruption of ecosystems, and antimicrobial resistance
* Importance of healthy ecosystems, including in preventing disease
* Current biodiversity crisis (especially related to insects and birds)
* Need for patience during a
transition period as the birds, bats, and dragonflies rebound
* 180+ cities across Canada have enacted pesticide bans and are beautiful (e.g. Vancouver)
Steps to green gardening. Montreal's website begins by reminding people of the pesticide ban, then provides them with 12 steps to green gardening to get around "replacement logic" and encourages ecological thinking instead.

* The many possibilities for a beautiful, healthy, livable city that ecological thinking enables. Montreal's approach has helped generate excitement about organic food-growing, permaculture, and naturalization. This has led to further creative green endeavours, such as roof-top growing in grocery stores and "green alleys" – in which citizens are taking back this public space for the community to grow food, plant vegetation to support pollinators, and let children play safely. Edmontonians care about biodiversity and can become equally excited about these new possibilities.

Latest posts

May 8th City Hall News


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  • Wednesday May 15th - Minding the Gap: Police Accountability in Alberta 

  • Saturday May 25th - Harbinger showcase and live podcast recording

  • Youth Council Recruitment!



  • We Won! Protecting the public interest - public funds for public buildings

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May 2nd City Hall News


  • May 11th - Alberta Bike Swap
  • May 13th - Summer Streets launch party
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  • May 25th - Harbinger Media Network Showcase
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Challenging the U of A: Leading with purpose in housing and land use planning

City Council recently approved a rezoning across the street from the U of A and it got me thinking about all the underutilized or unused space on the U of A main campus.

The expression I often hear at city hall is “highest and best use of city land” – in other words, land that brings benefit to the community (eg, a park or public space) or land that generates revenue for the city to offset taxes and pay for services (Industrial, commercial, residential in that order) 

But what if the University of Alberta could generate revenue and mitigate the housing and climate crisis? The university already has the vehicle: the U of A Properties Trust, an arms length development corporation that pays dividends back into the U of A through innovative developments and land leases.

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