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Environmental safety review of methoprene and bacterially-derived pesticides commonly used for sustained mosquito control

Abstract

© 2017 Elsevier Inc. Some pesticides are applied directly to aquatic systems to reduce numbers of mosquito larvae (larvicides) and thereby reduce transmission of pathogens that mosquitoes vector to humans and wildlife. Sustained, environmentally-safe control of larval mosquitoes is particularly needed for highly productive waters (e.g., catchment basins, water treatment facilities, septic systems), but also for other habitats to maintain control and reduce inspection costs. Common biorational pesticides include the insect juvenile hormone mimic methoprene and pesticides derived from the bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis, Lysinibacillus sphaericus and Saccharopolyspora spinosa (spinosad). Health agencies, the public and environmental groups have especially debated the use of methoprene because some studies have shown toxic effects on non-target organisms. However, many studies have demonstrated its apparent environmental safety. This review critically evaluates studies pertinent to the environmental safety of using methoprene to control mosquito larvae, and provides concise assessments of the bacterial larvicides that provide sustained control of mosquitoes. The review first outlines the ecological and health effects of mosquitoes, and distinguishes between laboratory toxicity and environmental effects. The article then interprets non-target toxicity findings in light of measured environmental concentrations of methoprene (as used in mosquito control) and field studies of its non-target effects. The final section evaluates information on newer formulations of bacterially-derived pesticides for sustained mosquito control. Results show that realized environmental concentrations of methoprene were usually 2–5 µg/kg (range 2–45 µg/kg) and that its motility is limited. These levels were not toxic to the vast majority of vertebrates and invertebrates tested in laboratories, except for a few species of zooplankton, larval stages of some other crustaceans, and small Diptera. Studies in natural habitats have not documented population reductions except in small Diptera. Bacterial larvicides showed good results for sustained control with similarly limited environmental effects, except for spinosad, which had broader effects on insects in mesocosms and temporary pools. These findings should be useful to a variety of stakeholders in informing decisions on larvicide use to protect public and environmental health in a ‘One Health’ framework.

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