1. Archive

Mass poisoning damages more than caterpillars

Re: Squiggles and squishes still part of our lives, March 16.

Anyone considering dousing their home or trees with insecticide to get rid of (admittedly annoying) caterpillars should first read Silent Spring.

If any birds eat the poisoned caterpillars, they will be poisoned, too. The caterpillars' (or moths') whole ecosystem can be thrown off balance by a mass killing.

Insecticides are dangerous not only to caterpillars, but also to humans and other creatures.

Malathion is considered one of the least harmful of the organic phosphates and people often think it is safe. But it is only "safe" because an enzyme in the mammalian liver renders it less harmful. If the enzyme has been destroyed or is inactive, the person exposed to the malathion is defenseless against its effects. Muscle weakness is characteristic of malathion poisoning and can be accompanied by nerve damage.

Is using insecticides against pesky but harmless creatures worth poisoning ourselves, our friends and our environment?

Pam Wheeler, St. Petersburg