Mandatory insect spraying on private property angers California residents
Mandatory state spraying of three pesticides to kill the invasive Japanese beetle in Fair Oaks and Carmichael has drawn the ire of residents concerned about forced spraying on their property and the lack of a public forum to discuss the issue with neighbors.
The California Department of Food and Agriculture’s decision to spray is also being questioned by a UC Davis entomologist, who contends that the Japanese beetle is already established locally and must be managed differently.
“Residents are subjected, year after year, to chemical management, not chemical ‘eradication,’ every time two or more beetles are found,” said Ellen Sward, who grudgingly opened her Carmichael property to CDFA spray crews Monday.
Fair Oaks resident Bob Mitchell initially resisted spraying in 2011. “I told them to bring a warrant if they were to try to get on my property ... otherwise they would have problems,” he said.
CDFA heeded the warning and arrived at his property that year with a warrant and the presence of California Highway Patrol officers, he said. The CDFA is authorized to enter properties and spray, according to the state’s food and agricultural code.
“Now, every time they come to my house, they come with a police escort,” he said.
In 1983, at least two property owners were arrested after resisting the spraying of diazinon on lawns to eradicate the beetle in Orangevale. That year, 10 percent of 489 homeowners refused to cooperate with the spraying and forced the state to obtain warrants.
Since 2011, Mitchell said CDFA has sprayed his property five times. His property falls within a 200-meter perimeter of where the Japanese beetle was trapped, but he noted that “they have not found one beetle on my property.”
Mitchell also expressed concern because his 93-year-old mother lives on his property, as well as two dogs. Mitchell said his 7-year-old giant poodle died of liver erosion after the second year of CDFA spraying on his property. He did not seek an autopsy.
But Rima Woods, toxicologist with the state’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, said the pesticide is safe after being diluted with water.
“The levels they will use are so highly diluted, we do not expect any health effects, human or pet, although we do not focus specifically on pets,” said Woods.
The Japanese beetle made its first appearance in the United States in 1916 in a nursery in southern New Jersey. By 1972, beetle infestations had been reported in 22 states east of the Mississippi River. Efforts to control the larval and adult stages cost more than $460 million annually, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.