Rain and Mosquitoes

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Anyone who believes humankind is at the top of the food chain does not live around mosquitoes.  In fact, if you believe my former microbiology professor, we have 1012 human cells, and 1013 microbial cells, so we are only ten percent human.  Perhaps we are merely mini-universes for the skin and gut flora, and the viruses and bacteria that make our respiratory tracts and other organic neighborhoods their homes.  Bottom line is humankind’s highest and best purpose may be to provide food and habitat for insects, viruses, and unicellular organisms.


This brings me to monotheism, the anthro-centric belief in a male-like supreme being who is detached and dominant, competitive, and paternalistic, omniscient, omnipotent, and perfect. 


What does the monotheistic tradition have to do with mosquitoes, a reasonable person might ask.  Well, this God, according to tradition, has placed man above the animals, nature, and certainly above the lowly insects, bacteria, and viruses.  This God also must think cruelty is funny, because He torments man and woman with these miniature vampires that He could eradicate with a flip of a life-switch, if He so chose.  No, instead, He puts humanity in the position of alleviating his own misery through insecticides like malathion, or genetic engineering to produce sterile male mosquitoes under patent, for release in Key West, Florida.


In other words, this control-freak God, who seems to enjoy stirring up wars between the competitive monotheists descended from The Fall, must love mosquitoes, ticks, fleas, sand gnats, horseflies, lice, mites, and other fast-mutating species, more than He loves man.  This preference for more mutable life forms is charmingly depicted in Rats, Lice, and History:  The Biography of a Bacillus, by Hans Zinsser (1934), the original author of the microbiology textbook still used in medical schools today.  In it, Zinsser claimed lice and other microbes win more wars than armies.  In any case, it offers even more proof that man has not evolved to the point where he understands how stupid he is to fight Mother Nature.


Speaking of Mother Nature, I recently finished reading The Power of Myth, by Joseph Campbell, with Bill Moyers.  This book was derived from a PBS documentary aired in 1988.  Campbell was a professor of comparative mythology at Sarah Lawrence College, well versed in the various beliefs around the world. He made a clear distinction between the monotheistic God as above-it-all creator; and the mother-goddess traditions in which the goddess is “within as well as without.”  He claimed these earth-centered traditions placed animals equal to man and sometimes superior. As mothers generally have unconditional love for all their children, the mother-goddess traditions evolved as naturally compassionate and what we might now call “eco-friendly.”


In the “deistic” or “animistic” belief systems of the Native American mythology, for instance, the natural and supernatural worlds are intimately interconnected.  While some of the ritualistic religious ceremonies may seem brutal now, they respected man’s role as a part of and totally dependent on nature’s bounty.   The primary food animal of a tribe was revered, respected, and often deified.  Feasting ceremonies prayed to the spirit of the animal, asking it to be re-born to provide food again.


Another of my books describes the Hopi Snake Society rain dances.  In these, dancers hold rattlesnakes in their mouths, as part of the ceremony appealing for rain.  The book claims cloudbursts often follow.  (National Geographic Society’s Indians of the Americas, 1955).


A few years ago, Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue, responding to drought conditions, prayed for rain.  His prayers were followed by torrents in the mountains which caused flooding and a couple of fatalities. 


I figured he prayed to the wrong God.  He should have prayed to Mother Nature, who loves all her creatures, even people, and knows that the right amount of rain at the right time and place benefits all equally.


So, for those interested in “climate change,” perhaps we need to redefine the problem and re-work the strategy, and turn thoughts toward changing the climate in more desirable ways.  Even Seth of the Jane Roberts series asserts that man’s thoughts influence weather. 


While I haven’t resorted to dancing with rattlesnakes, I have made appeals to Mother Nature for a milder summer, here in the swamps of Savannah.  I have asked the plants and animals to join me in this weather-making experiment.  My chickens seem particularly good at it.  I’ve even reminded Ma Nature that it will help mosquitoes.  This latest twist on “climate change” is a conversation starter and actually elicits a few smiles.  That we could perhaps influence the weather in universally beneficial ways may be the stuff of science fiction today, but the concept is as inspiring as a rainbow, should you choose to believe.  And, no government help required.


Down home, this summer, we have had more rain than in recent years, along with more cloud cover and more breeze.  Even the little blood-suckers have held off, for reasons only known to Ma Nature, but I thank her nonetheless.













Dino Manalis Added Jul 20, 2018 - 2:57pm
Mosquitoes  carry infectious diseases, be careful!
Bill H. Added Jul 20, 2018 - 5:17pm
Mosquitos are in many ways beneficial to many animal species and humans. They are nature's way of vaccinating against many forms of bacteria and viruses. Of course, they have also been the spreaders of disease in the past, acting also as a means to control overpopulation.
I suspect that someday humans will find a way to utilize mosquitos as a way to mass-vaccinate entire populations against many harmful viruses and diseases.
Mustafa Kemal Added Jul 20, 2018 - 11:06pm
re:"Anyone who believes humankind is at the top of the food chain does not live around mosquitoes. "
Indeed, it took the struggles of St. Francis to reconcile Christianity with nature with and Thomas Aquinas to reconcile Christianity with reason.
Niether reconciliations appear to be have lasted. 
When I compare my offspring with those of a Luzuli Bunting I ask myself
"who is better adapted to our world?"
but only as humour, I know the answer.
Mustafa Kemal Added Jul 20, 2018 - 11:07pm
Bill H. 
Fascinating idea. Thank you so much for that.
Ryan Messano Added Jul 20, 2018 - 11:14pm
I’m persuaded the fertility cults of old weren’t noble at all, and, judging by the burned bones of infants offered up in child sacrifice constantly being unearthed by archaeologists, the Gaia religions aren’t what they are cracked up to be by today’s liberal.
Human sacrifice was nearly always involved, just as liberals today murder kids with abortion and contraception.  Nothing changes.
Bill H. Added Jul 21, 2018 - 1:09am
A very interesting discussion by Katherine and of course, Ryan has to stop by, politicize it, and leave his terd of hate.
Go shit elsewhere, son!
The Burghal Hidage Added Jul 21, 2018 - 5:41am
Fits my premise. Mother Nature is God....there is nothing more
opher goodwin Added Jul 21, 2018 - 5:46am
Hi Katharine - This is great stuff. I wrote a Sci-fi book on this - about us being farmed by microbes! Even our consciousness being coordinated by them. That was fun. And when we die the microbes have a field-day!
opher goodwin Added Jul 21, 2018 - 5:49am
Murder by contraception?? Every sperm is sacred. Keep saving then up sonny!
Unfortunately your sperm are reabsorbed. Is that murder too? In which case, if your nuts have descended, you are murdering millions every hour!
No wonder you are mad.
The Burghal Hidage Added Jul 21, 2018 - 5:49am
Everything that exists does so to become fuel for something else. Think about it. At it's ultimate conclusion this is true
opher goodwin Added Jul 21, 2018 - 7:00am
We're all food and we're all related!! It's incesticide!!
The Burghal Hidage Added Jul 21, 2018 - 8:33am
Good play on words! I should have got that one.  I must be a bad influence on you Opher :)
Stone-Eater Added Jul 21, 2018 - 8:34am
That's it. Nature is "god". Quite simple as most things are until humans complicate them.
The Burghal Hidage Added Jul 21, 2018 - 10:19am
Genau so, mein Freund! Genau so
The Burghal Hidage Added Jul 21, 2018 - 10:21am
Wir sind alles von die Sterne gemacht (gekommt?) Du wisst woran Ich spreche.....
opher goodwin Added Jul 21, 2018 - 10:28am
Burger - you are indeed a bad influence on me! I cherish bad influences!
opher goodwin Added Jul 21, 2018 - 10:29am
Stone - simple but sophisticated with amazing interwoven complexity.
The Burghal Hidage Added Jul 21, 2018 - 10:33am
Its like Dylan....it means everything and nothing at the same time 
Neil Lock Added Jul 21, 2018 - 11:17am
Thank you, Katharine, for a good and timely article. To me, it seems that at the deepest level of thought (conventionally "metaphysics") there are three main questions to be answered. (1) What's out there? (2) Who (or what) am I? And (3) what's it all about?
We humans have a way of finding answers to (1); it's called science. Not surprising, then, that the enemies of humanity mis-use science to try to make their arguments against us - like the "human emissions of CO2 cause global warming" fraud. (BTW, here in the southern UK we're having THE BEST and hottest summer in living memory; better than 1959, or even 1976. Thanks for sending us your warmth, Katharine!)
(2) is a really important question, to which we devote far too little effort. In what ways are humans different from, or better than, animals? My own suggestion is that we can trade in ways that animals can't. Money (at least, honest money) is, for me, one of the key things that separates us from chimpanzees.
As to (3), the conventional answer is religion, some god or "logos" controlling the Universe. For me, until we've answered (2) adequately, (3) isn't worth even considering. So, as I like to put it: "If you let me have my religion (or lack of it), I'll let you have yours."
Even A Broken Clock Added Jul 21, 2018 - 11:39am
Katharine - We are far too ignorant of our own internal biosphere. Think of the havoc we cause whenever we ingest a course of antibiotics. It takes a long time to reestablish a "natural" population of bacteria after the shock of antibiotics.
Even more interesting is the knowledge that children born through caesarian section are lacking the load of bacteria they would receive by going through the birth canal. This may be a partial cause of diseases like asthma.
But as for mosquitoes, they are literally a pain.
Katharine Otto Added Jul 21, 2018 - 2:06pm
Thanks, folks, for all the comments.  I hoped to generate a little levity in our oh-so-serious intellectual discussions, and it seems to have worked.  Also, it occurs to me that science, such as it is, lacks humor.  Joseph Campbell commented that the Judeo-Christian (and Islamic) religions lack humor, but mythologies have it.  
I'm aware of the human sacrifices of some tribes, but that wasn't universal.  Also, Campbell specifically mentions how the Hebrews systematically destroyed the Canaanites and replaced their mother-goddess system of worship with their Yahweh.  Also, they were brutal, especially to what Campbell called "out" groups.  
Campbell also emphasized that we must all eat to survive, and this presents a life-death dilemma for humanity.  That's why it strikes me that current practices, such as factory animal farming, or even mono-agriculture, disrespect the food sources, and have the effect of de-vitalizing the planet.  Cultures that live close to the land have more respect for its products.
The Burghal Hidage Added Jul 21, 2018 - 2:18pm
As this continent's previous occupants could surely attest. If there were more of them left. Nature cares not for our conscience, she is neither benign nor malignant. She is balance. Where we fit in that balance is ultimately up to her
Katharine Otto Added Jul 21, 2018 - 2:36pm
Bill H.,
Mosquitoes are definitely an important part of the food chain, such as for birds.  I do know people who don't react to mosquito bites.  As far as mass vaccinations go, I'm not sure I want that kind of scientific help released in my back yard.  I already have to live with the county's dumping of malathion over my head, and I'm convinced it has only made the surviving mosquitoes meaner.
Interesting comments about St. Francis and Thomas Aquinas, but I don't have the background to add anything.  I guess they didn't last, or I might know more.  
Unfortunately, I believe the fastest mutating organisms are the best fit for survival, meaning viruses and bacteria first.  Humans are slow to mutate in any beneficial ways, so would be the least adaptable to catastrophic change.
Mother Nature is not only God, but she is science, too.  In our intellectuality, we have tried to separate the two and create a mechanistic world view that denies the inter-activity of life and the universe. That's what I like about the Oriental concept of "qi" or life force, which permeates everything.  In some ways the indigenous tribes approach the same idea.  Quantum physics comes even closer, as in the experimenter influences the outcome of the experiment and can never be truly objective.
It is an interesting concept, and it doesn't surprise me that you have explored it in sci-fi.  What's the name of your book?  Hellstrom's Hive, by Robert Heinlein approaches the idea, too.   I've thought about how these microbes must have a field day on decomposing bodies, but they must hate formalin and other embalming fluids.
I always appreciate your thoughtful responses.  Glad to send some warm weather your way.  The rain-making exercise here is working well.  We had another downpour yesterday, complete with lightning and thunder.  Sun's out today drying things out a bit, but the weather remains a refreshingly cool (for us) 80 degrees.  Breezes keep the mosquitoes at bay.
I think the key thing that separates humans from animals is opposable thumbs.  It gives us, among other things, the ability to serve animals, such as using that great money to buy GMO corn (80% is GMO in the US) to feed the deer.  They are most grateful, but I figure they may have to feed me one day.
How right you are.  We know so little about the body, yet we manage to survive all kinds of insults to it.  Antibiotics are case in point, but I wonder about our pill-popping society in general, how it must upset the homeostasis and either directly or indirectly create as many health problems as it solves.  And then there's junk food . . .  
About babies, breast-fed babies are said to develop better immunity than bottle-fed ones, for the same reasons as going through the birth canal is protective.
Katharine Otto Added Jul 21, 2018 - 2:42pm
Hey, you admitted there is a god?  Goddess, rather?  Glory be.  Would it be fair to say that god/goddess is life?  That approaches the qi (chi) concept, too.
Next step is to convince you that time and space are illusions.
Stone-Eater Added Jul 21, 2018 - 3:00pm
Nope, no admitting there :-) Nature is nature and god is a definition of nature for illiterates LOL
Time and space are not illusions but perceptions based on the senses we have mixed with a portion of what we call logic - OUR logic. Time doesn't exist in interstellar space. But then....actually I am 480 years old Mercury time and KNOW therefore :-)
Space.....hm...do you mean emptiness or space ? And which difference is there ? Hm.....gotta check that one out.. 
Stone-Eater Added Jul 21, 2018 - 3:01pm
Wir sind Sternenstaub, so sagt man. Allerdings sind wir ziemlich zielgerichteter und kommunikativer Staub :-)
The Burghal Hidage Added Jul 21, 2018 - 4:53pm
Das stimmt! LOL
James E. Unekis Added Jul 21, 2018 - 7:49pm
I worked my way through college.  One of the jobs I had was spraying malathion mist from a specially outfitted truck.  I probably killed a million ,mosquitos every night.  Alas it didn't seem to make a difference and I think you are right in saying it just made the remaining ones meaner.  So now, in the evening when they start to bite, I just head inside. The little buggers have won as far as I'm concerned.
OH, and I do think GOD created them because they are quick to draw blood.  If they were created by female deity they'd just get in your ear and nag.
Pardero Added Jul 21, 2018 - 8:21pm
Katharine Otto,
I must get The Power of Myth, since I have long been fascinated with the "mother-goddess traditions." 
I do have Marija Gimbutas's The Goddesses and Gods of Old Europe, but I was looking for something closer to the time of the Kurgan Expanson, and the transition from matriarchal societies to patriarchal. I am particularly fascinated by vestiges of "mother-goddess traditions" that survived into historic times.  Graves's The White Goddess wasn't really what I was looking for.
I may have mentioned before, a study that ranked nations for equality between the sexes. The Germanic speaking countries rated the highest, with an epicenter that corresponded to the range of the Funnel Beaker culture, which was superceded by the known Indo-European Battle Axe Culture.
Germanic is unusual in having so many words from an unidentified non Indo-European language. The Funnel Beaker people are as likely a source as any, and I wonder what else we may have inherited from them.
Thank you for the article!
You asked a rhetorical question once. The answer is: overall-priceless, certain proficiencies-perhaps not so much. ; )
Bill H. Added Jul 21, 2018 - 10:26pm
We had Malathion flyovers some years back. The only result was a lack of birds and beneficial insects for quite a few years afterwards. All of our plants became infested with aphids and we had no earthworms for years until I bought a bunch at the local fishing bait store and let them loose on the lawn.
I really did not see a reduction in the mosquito population either!
Lindsay Wheeler Added Jul 22, 2018 - 9:29am
Many bird species and bats rely on mosquitoes. 
I found this article as comedic relief. As a monotheist, I too question God for creating mosquitoes---who would have thunk to have a creature suck blood!
Who figured that out?
I have a lot of questions for God, why pigeons?  Why earwigs?  Why ticks?  Why mosquitoes? Tiny devils with wings. OHhhh, yes Poison Ivy!  And spines on rose bushes!  That's another. 
Doug Plumb Added Jul 22, 2018 - 9:40am
I often say that Jews run the world. Its because the insects remain silent. If just one insect could ever read this...
Katharine Otto Added Jul 22, 2018 - 4:14pm
I can accept your definition of "nature is nature."  Next, can you define life?
I can also accept that time and space (as in "here" and "there," nothing fancy) are figments of our five senses.  
Stone and Burghal,
Wish I spoke German.
Thanks for the info.  I wish someone would tell our local mosquito control people.  They would rather spray from helicopters than maintain drainage ditches.   Very funny about the origin of mosquitoes.  Since the male mosquitoes buzz in my ear, I guess they were created by female deities.  I'm told they don't bite, but I've hit myself in the head numerous times to get at them.
You've far surpassed my knowledge about the matriarchal/goddess religions and history.  I've never heard of the Funnel Beakers or others you've mentioned,  It's embarrassing, but it's nice to tap into people who are well versed in areas I'm not.  
Bill H.,
I've noticed a surprising lack of critters, like earthworms and bugs my chickens like.  Butterflies, grasshoppers.  Maybe it's the malathion's fault?  I do know the local bee hive-keepers want to be informed before the malathion helicopters spray.  Scary.  
I could generate a long list of creatures I would like to export to other dimensions.  I was wondering what else eats mosquitoes.  Seems frogs eat mosquito larvae.  Fish eat mosquitoes, too, I think.  Maybe we just need more of them.
Maybe the insects run the Jews, but don't expect either to admit it.  Have you ever read Kurt Vonnegut's "Thomas Edison's Shaggy Dog?"  One of my favorite stories, in Welcome to the Monkey House.  It runs along similar lines.
Doug Plumb Added Jul 22, 2018 - 5:36pm
Vonnegut is great reading. Every once in a while I see five of his books for sale in a bundle, never seem to have enough cash on me at the time.
Stephen Hunter Added Jul 22, 2018 - 8:29pm
Very interesting article and topic Katherine. 
I loved Joseph Campbell's documentary, which to me dug into the emotional need for a villain, which represents human fears. 
Some of what you are saying ties into gut health, and the number of bacteria that live there. We need healthy gut bacteria primarily for a healthy immune system. Reminds me, time to take my probiotic. :)
Katharine Otto Added Jul 23, 2018 - 1:21pm
Vonnegut was indeed inspirational.  One of my all time favorite authors.  Also, after having survived the bombing of Dresden, he was a devoted pacifist.
Thanks for your comment.  The series/book spurred many insights for me.  I tried to write a synopsis, but couldn't do it justice without getting tedious.  Also, I was afraid of extrapolating too much and mis-representing Campbell's ideas.
Neil Lock Added Jul 23, 2018 - 2:06pm
Katharine to Bill H: the local bee hive-keepers want to be informed before the malathion helicopters spray. That made me put 2 and 2 together and get 4 and a half. I hear that bee populations, outside man made hives, are declining. Could it be that measures against mosquitoes, initiated by politicians, are actively harmful to bees?
Lindsay: Why pigeons? Yes, I know they shit a lot and in the wrong places. But they taste good. In Morocco, they're a delicacy. :-)
Katharine Otto Added Jul 24, 2018 - 2:20pm
It certainly makes me wonder, too.  When I think of all the herbicides, pesticides, and other poisons that are being dumped into the environment, along with all the industrial pollutants, plastic, and other trash, I wonder how any of these life forms still exist.  This, to me, is a much larger threat than CO2 or methane.  Someone mentioned lately that previous centuries saw plagues and famines, but there was not the pervasiveness of chronic disease we see today, maybe because medications and treatment keep people alive longer than they might have lived before.  
When I talk about de-vitalization of the planet, I'm referring to a multi-factorial and intricately inter-connected problem that extends to our nutritionally depleted food.
Johnny Fever Added Jul 25, 2018 - 8:39am
Our food has become “nutritionally depleted?”  How so?
As it relates to mosquitoes, perhaps the problem is that you live in a swamp? 
Ward Tipton Added Jul 25, 2018 - 10:01am
Well from a strictly scientific and philosophical approach; 
The vast majority of each atom is empty space, with minor components circling and interacting depending upon the composition of that particular atom ... though since all atoms are more than ninety percent empty space ... nothingness ... would that not make this entire exercise much ado about nothing? 
Forgetting of course that nothing, by the very fact that it can be defined, becomes the only singular-word oxymoron. 
As for the comments about God, we see both in Peter and in Job that Satan is the ruler of this world. In Job, Satan was out walking in his realm when he spotted Job ... and in Peter just before the infamous kiss of Judas Iscariot, we know the Christ said "The leader of this world is coming for me" ... meaning Satan was coming to put him to death ... it is indeed, mankind who has invited all the trouble and turmoil through sin. 
And as for skeeters, when I was in the Swamps of North Florida and Southern Georgia, we motioned to have the Skeeter named as the State Bird ... but they were massive bastahds and flew in formation ... 
Pardero Added Jul 25, 2018 - 12:11pm
Johnny Fever,
Even I can provide a partial answer. Much produce has been bred for appearance and storage life. Many varieties have been bred for rapid growth. The phytonutrients are missing. The sugars and/or oils are missing. 
Hardly anyone wants a Red Delicious apple, anymore, though tree-ripened specimens were unparalled for rich flavor. Now, they appear ripe on the outside, but are green as gourds on the inside.
I quit eating sunflower seeds. The GMO seeds have no oil or flavor. They taste like immature seeds, though they are of normal size.
The wheat that you eat is not the same as the Romans ate, not even considering the milling process. 
Nutritional value is rarely a consideration. Disease resistance, size, early maturation, appearance, and storage life are the chief concerns.
Whether because of selective breeding, or cultural practices, overwhelming evidence supports Katharine Otto's statement.
James E. Unekis Added Jul 25, 2018 - 4:32pm
Neil, Kaharine,
Yes Malathion is very toxic to bees.
Katharine Otto Added Jul 26, 2018 - 2:36pm
Johnny Fever,
Nutritionally depleted?  Let me count the ways, but numbers don't go that high.  Start with the processing, with its infusion of preservatives, dyes, and other chemicals designed to extend shelf-life.  The fresh vegetables and fruits rot before they ripen, because of GMOs, hormones, pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, and whatever other chemicals they add to speed growing.  Have you tasted the difference between home-grown and store-bought tomatoes?  Then there's the fast food, the junk food, and the gallons of sugarized, glutamated, and carbonated drinks that people consume instead of vitamins and minerals.  White rice instead of brown rice, which has more minerals and nutrients.  Have I mentioned the wax on the apples, cucumbers and other fresh products to make them shiny and slippery?  
I don't know where you live, but watch what people buy in the grocery store, and you will understand a major reason why Americans are fat, unhealthy, and broke.
Yes, I live in an entomologists' paradise, and I only wish our city parents would follow the example of William Gorgas and Walter Reed when they supervised the digging of the Panama Canal.  They minimized malaria and yellow fever by good drainage.  Fortunately, these diseases have been eradicated in the US, but since the Army Corps of Engineers maintains the largest mosquito habitat in two states with dredge from the Savannah Harbor deepening, so that more international traffic can visit our port, I won't be surprised if we see a resurgence.  Local government hasn't cleaned the drainage ditch next to my house since I was a child.
Katharine Otto Added Jul 26, 2018 - 2:44pm
I'm not sure how to answer you.  I could say the atom is only mostly empty space based on our limited human understanding.  That could also mean many dimensions are superimposed on each other--from a spatial point of view--and there's room inside atoms for other dimensions.  Since our tools only extend our physical senses so far, it's conceivable that there are many dimensions right under our noses, so to speak.
Regarding the Biblical idea that Satan rules the world, I think it's a cop-out that gives man an excuse for being stupid.  However you define "evil," I believe it boomerangs back on its perpetrator(s).  For purely practical reasons, then, I try to practice the Golden Rule (which to me is the only truly valid rule), because I don't enjoy suffering.
Katharine Otto Added Jul 26, 2018 - 2:48pm
I responded to Johnny Fever's comment before reading yours, so thank you for your informed and more detailed response.  It helps that you agree with me, so thank you for that, too.
Katharine Otto Added Jul 26, 2018 - 2:58pm
Malathion is universally toxic, and since Bill H. suggested it kills earthworms, I've begun to notice the absence of all kinds of critters that used to be common.  I don't know how long it takes to break down in the environment.  Do you?
I'm also beginning to wonder more than ever about glyphosate (Round Up), which apparently remains intact long after application, and may destroy beneficial soil fungus for many years.  I remember accepting some "free" wood chip compost from Georgia Power several years ago.  Instead of building up the soil, it caused a depression in my yard which still exists.  It took years for grass to grow back.  I know Georgia Power uses herbicides and even suggested it for trees of mine that were branching onto power lines.
Since then, I've been suspicious of compost and soil that comes from unknown places.  Also, top-soil sellers have been known to lie about where they get their dirt.
James E. Unekis Added Jul 26, 2018 - 3:50pm
I scanned a few sources (Googled) it.  It appears that its half-life in soil is 18 days and between 2 to 18 days in water.  Sunshine speeds the breakdown.
I didn't know it affected earthworms.  It  did seem to kill a lot of different bugs when I used it in my vegetable garden.  I just use some Dawn dish soap  mixed with a lot of water in my vegetable garden these days.  That seems to work well.
According to the CDC "Systemic effects of malathion poisoning can occur from all routes of exposure. Symptoms of malathion poisoning can include headache, nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, generalized muscle weakness and twitching, slurred speech, pinpoint pupils, excessive secretions, and shortness of breath." (https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/MMG/MMG.asp?id=517&tid=92)
I've handled hundreds of gallons of Malathion in the early 1980's.  The only effect I experienced was burning in the eyes through direct exposure.  But, I didn't drink the stuff.
I believe that spraying is generally unwarranted if you don't remove the stagnant water where they breed  A single tire lying on its side is enough to generate tens of thousands of the little critters. You can spray all day and all night - if you don't get rid of the water then you are just wasting your time....IMHO.  I had read that they were having some success in introducing certain minnows who loved to eat the larvae but I haven't kept up with the results.
Round-up is a really nasty chemical; especially when not mixed according to directions.  I knew of some farmers who used it straight-up in some areas and it killed everything green.  Some areas took a couple of years before anything would sprout.  The stuff you Buy in Home Depot, though, is so diluted that it has little or no effect.   I won't use it anymore.  I bought a good hoe,a tiny tiller to go between rows in my garden and use hand shears around the yard.
The longer I live the less I trust big companies.  To some extent I think they were more trustworthy in the past; perhaps I was just more naive.  These days I think they'd sell you anything if there was profit in it.  I honestly think they don't care about health effects or damage to the environment.
Katharine Otto Added Jul 27, 2018 - 12:00pm
Thank you so much for the comprehensive and detailed answer.  Mosquitoes were so  bad yesterday I almost wished for the malathion man.  Sure enough, the helicopter arrived around dusk and made several passes.  This morning, the mosquitoes were gone, but I could still smell the malathion.
I'm very careful about standing water.  I do provide water for chickens and deer, but change it frequently.  I also think mosquitoes breed in slightly salty water.  Since I live on a tidal creek, it's hard to control that.
I don't trust these companies, either, and with the mergers of the biggest seed/agricultural/pharmaceutical companies, the danger has increased.  It's very hard to prove these agents cause widespread damage, because so many factors are involved, or it takes awhile for results to become obvious.  Bayer has now subsumed Monsanto.  I don't know the latest status of the Dow/Dupont merger, or that of Syngenta with China National Chemical Corporation (ChemChina).  It seems Wall Street directs the moves, and the short-term bottom line trumps any considerations of long-term safety or "collateral damage".

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