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Green Acre #5: Mr. Mosquito Rid

Garden full

The leafy Cavanaugh glen. Photo by Stephanie Cavanaugh. COVER PHOTO: by Christopher Badzioch, iStock.

A MR. MOSQUITO RID sign has appeared in my neighbor’s property. “I’ve reclaimed my garden!” she said one gorgeous afternoon last week as we sat over coffee in her cigarette-musty living room. She’s rarely out there in the garden, though she hires a guy to come by and mow the lawn, and occasionally a team of inepts materializes to thwack back the wisteria.

Last week I caught a glimpse of Mr. Mosquito (not his real name, we don’t need to be sued), in full hazmat suit, eyes obscured behind the tiny window in his hood, sweeping his toxic wand over the azaleas and honeysuckle.

Not at all, by the way, as he is caricatured on his sign; like Fabio of the Flies, all flashing teeth and brawny forearms, manfully ridding the garden of blood-sucking pests.

The neighbor pays $400 or so for the season, and we appear to be receiving a residual benefit; our back porch, a good hundred yards from her garden, has been curiously mosquito-free since the spraying started. Let’s see what else drops dead.

I’m wondering if the spraying has anything to do with the departure of the birds that began to build their usual nest in the chandelier on the porch. They apparently have slightly tacky taste, as do I.


Not your garden-variety outdoor chandelier, the one in Gardener Cavanaugh’s backyard usually hosts birds and their nest. / Photo by Stephanie Cavanaugh.

Each year they arrive, swooping in with their twigs and cellophane wrappers and shreds of paper and build as I sit on the sofa beneath them with my newspaper. In short order there are eggs, and mama and papa bird appear to take turns sitting, unless they’re lesbian birds. I know nothing about the distribution of labor among male and female birds. Nor do I know what kind of birds they are. I suspect, doves?

This goes on for weeks, with whichever bird is tending the nest getting more ruffled at my presence as the day of hatching approaches, scrawing when I appear. And I twit back, If you don’t care for company, why the hell do you build here?

It is queer, isn’t it?

When the birds hatch, watching them grow is a lovely activity. Last year there were two, one feisty and brave, the other a little chicken shit. The brave one flew first, perching on the edge of the nest and giving his wings a few pumps up and down before gliding four or so feet to a ceiling-fan blade (no, it was not on), cawing at his sibling to join him, which wasn’t happening. He sat for a bit, then with more confidence flapped back to the nest.

The next morning he coaxed his timid brother (or sister, or maybe he was the sister, who knows) to join him on the fan blade and his poor sibling remained there, seemingly traumatized by the effort, for most of the day.

And then they were gone, and I was pulling out the nest and washing bird dreck off the chandelier’s crystals and beads.

This year a nest was begun, then abandoned. Coincidence, Mr. Mosquito Rid? I think not.

—Stephanie Cavanaugh

Next week Gardener Cavanaugh  turns to her indoor environment. And we meet The Prince a/k/a her husband. Stephanie is currently working on a book about urban gardening.

9 thoughts on “Green Acre #5: Mr. Mosquito Rid

  1. As professional gardeners for many residential clients, we too are concerned about coming into contact with the dried residues/chemicals of the mosquito killer sprays being professional used. We do not know what effect it will have on us as we weed, prune & tend to these gardens on a regular basis.
    I’m not sure if people are aware that by having these mosquito sprays used, they not only are killing mosquitos, but many other beneficial bugs are being killed also. Arborists are reporting a larger population of various insects are being killed when coming into contact with the sprays.
    We certainly understand why people don’t want to be out in their gardens if they are being attacked by mosquitos, but there are some others things you can do – use natural bug sprays such as lemon eucalyptus which doesn’t contain deet, have a fan blowing in the area where you are sitting, citronella candles, using mosquito dunks & bits in water features, and adding plants to your garden that mosquitos don’t like such as herbs and even marigolds or geraniums to name a few.

  2. jindra cekan says:

    Stephanie’s article is so observant, so decadently, skeptically charming, e.g. “Let’s see what else drops dead.” Look forward to more!

  3. Cyd says:

    And just in case you still don’t believe how extensive the coating of pesticide is, I invite you to come take a look at my windows; they are covered with a thick, white film – which is the same residue that coats all plants and other surfaces it encounters.

  4. Cyd says:

    Unfortunately, however, the company you write about also has the deep-pocketed pesticide industry backing it, so articles touting this company get “placed” in our local publications, etc., etc. And the company gets around EPA regulations governing dispersement of the pesticide because the type of applicator used is not governed by the regs, a major loophole that allows lead blowers to be used. Unbelievable! So, yes, of couse, whole neighborhoods end up being bug free because the pesticide goes EVERYWHERE!

    1. i named no company, just to be clear here. Mr. Mosquito Rid is an invention.

  5. Cyd says:

    Thank you so much for writing this article, Stephanie. I too have had neighbors who use the company you speak of, along with another one with an acronym that fools people into thinking they are partaking in integrated pest management (IPM), a “least toxics first” approach to bug control that is endorsed by the EPA. And both companies’ practices wipe out ALL the bugs in the vicinity, while frequently also killing any birds and squirrels that have been unlucky enough to be in direct contact with the spraying, which, in the case of the company you mention is hard to avoid, given that a leaf-blower-like-apparatus – with a 500-mile-an-hour wind velocity – is used. Most people, of course, are at work during the day when this spraying occurs, so they do not observe it – or breathe in the massive “drift” that results. But most of us who work or walk our dogs in the neighborhood during the day have repeatedly encountered the sprayers, and have observed the wildlife struggling and then dropping dead afterwards. In fact, one dog walker and I have gone around actually “bagging” dead birds and squirrels afterwards. So…just think about it…if these creatures are dying on contact, well, that’s certainly not good for humans, either!

  6. Sarah says:

    “Fabio of the flies” made my day! Your writing is sublime. Thank you so much for these amazing posts. Can’t wait to buy the book!

    We started getting visits from “Mr. Mosquito Rid” a few years ago. We too felt like we had reclaimed our back yard — and it was lovely. Still, while we didn’t notice a change in the birds, we did wonder what other hideous, genocidal damage we might be doing– we preferred to avoid being known as mass murderers in any species . At the beginning of last year, we switched to the organic option, which, if my nose is any judge, is mostly garlic. Unfortunately it costs a bit more, but you get to smell like a great Italian restaurant for a day after they spray and significantly lessen the guilt. And it works! Really. Maybe your neighbor will go for that?

    1. I’d be happy to live in an Italian restaurant, if I can’t have Italy. The more garlic the better. Excellent for vampires as well.

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