gypsy moth spraying

friday morning and saturday morning we had a little plane flying around spraying gordon head for the gypsy moth. pretty annoying to have a plane flying 100 feet above your house at 5:30 AM. thank you, assholes.
well, what is wrong with gypsy moths, why are we spraying them, what are we spraying them with, and what does that stuff do? these are the questions that most often come up, but the news fails to convey the message. here are the answers:

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  1. Just a note: The spray reagent should be completely harmless to humans…I’ve purified way deadlier (to humans) toxins than this one (and in much larger quantities), and I’m not dead yet (I have a BSc. in microbiology and working on my PhD in Calgary.)
    However, that being said…
    I don’t think it’s particularly healthy for them to be spraying Bacillus thurgenesis spores, as they will germinate anywhere…although Bacillus tends to like lower temperatures (26 deg or less, roughly the temp of a fly…had to know that for a class), I can’t imagine that inhaling the stuff is that great…they won’t germinate in your lungs or anything (due to the temp restricition), but for the people that avoid going outside when the pollen count is high, this is not good for them.
    Furthermore, the Bt toxin is a nice handy toxin that kills pretty much any insect (like butterflies) without specificity. Should we be spraying a reagent that is not specific for the pest at hand? Well, let’s face it, it’s a helluva lot better to spray a relatively harmless protein (the toxin or the bacterial spores that germinate and make the toxin) that is FAR more biodegradable than the chemicals we now use for many other pests (most of these chemicals I don’t even touch in the lab without wearing two pairs of latex gloves).
    One thing to keep in mind about the label…if you’ve ever looked at a WHMIS label in science classes, you soon realize that ordinary table salt and white sugar are IRRITANTS that you should avoid (among several other dire warnings) Remember that the labels are always stronger sounding than they need be, it’s government regulation. Plus, no one can sue the company as the company can say they disclosed the info.
    In conclusion, there’s nothing wrong with the spraying except that it may slightly affect some people who get sprayed on (as you would with any bacterial spore, but one thing to remember is that B. thurengensis is a normal inhabitant of soil). BUT my main problem: the toxin does not target gypsy moths directly, it will kill most insects. So if you don’t see many butterflies this year…you’ll know why.
    p.s. as you may or may not know, the gene for Bt toxin is the gene they add to many genetically modified foods like corn to make them insect resistant. The plant makes the Bt toxin as part of its protein production, and the toxin affects any insect who takes a bite out of the plant. This corn has been shown to cause die-offs of monarch butterflies in Texas. Go Monsanto Go!
    Sorry this was so long-winded but this is an issue that needs to be addressed…best to have all the info, right?

  2. of course i’d see the post…James and I (especially me, as I like the regular pictures of home) are regular daily lurkers on your uber-secret blog 🙂

  3. Most solvents, like Silvo/Brasso, liquid wrench, and WD-40 can cause severe nerve damage and certain brain damage. They can also be absorbed through the skin. They dissolve the gaps between your neurons. Scarily, they aren’t even labelled as dangerous when packaged for consumer use, only for commercial use (since MSDS regulations only cover the workplace.) They’re much scarier than gypsy moth spraying, which only happens once a year or so 🙂

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