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Synthesis/Regeneration 31   (Spring 2003)

Belly-up Goldfish Don’t Eat Larvae

by Don Fitz, Green Party of St. Louis

Lewis Park is a couple of blocks from our home in University City, Missouri. On Sunday, August 25, 2002 Barbara told that when she was walking through the park, the pond was putting out a big stink. Hundreds of goldfish were floating on top of the water.

“Let’s get over there and photograph it,” I told her. A week or so before, a pesticide spray truck had gone down the streets. When she called city hall, they told her that U City contracted with St. Louis County for spraying against West Nile Virus (WNV). The fact sheet they sent said the County sprays Aqua-Reslin, which is 20% permethrin, 20/% piperonyl butoxide, and 60% unidentified ingredients. It warns that the spray is “extremely toxic to fish.”

Goldfish, along with guppies, fathead minnows, and golden shiners, feed on mosquito larvae. Frogs, dragonflies, ladybugs, lacewings and several species of birds also eat mosquitoes. Bats can eat 1000 per night. One of the great ironies of the 2002 WNV spraying was that pesticides killed the very creatures that control mosquitoes. Those who advocated spraying displayed their complete lack of understanding of the interaction between species in an ecosystem.

A mosquito lives for about two weeks. Their predators have much longer life spans. If both are killed by spraying at the same time, mosquitoes will replenish their populations much quicker. When a mosquito’s great-great-granddaughter lays her eggs eight weeks later, there may be very few predators to eat the larvae. Spraying may reduce mosquito populations briefly and be followed by an increase in a few months. Even if all the mosquitoes are killed in a pond, new ones fly in. Very few new goldfish flew to Lewis Park pond.

Barbara and I called the U City government to ask why hundreds of goldfish were belly-up. The Environmental Investigator told me he didn’t have a clue about what happened and referred me to the Park Operations Manager, who Barbara had talked with the day before. The Manager told me it was a mystery to him, too, but he was pretty sure it was not an algae problem.

When Barbara and I went by the pond on Sunday, I had taken our camera. I had figured out earlier how to get the date on each photo. When Channel 2 TV responded to the Green Party press release, I told them to meet me at Lewis Park pond. When I got there, the reporter was walking around the pond wondering why all the goldfish were gone. So I pulled out the photos that had just been developed to show that I had not imagined it. Several photos appeared on the 9 pm news on August 27.

The lesson to be learned is: keep your camera handy.

[21 apr 03]

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