MRCU boss denies dead bees linked to spraying

| 04/12/2019 | 51 Comments
Cayman News Service
Mosquito Research & Control Unit plane

(CNS): Mosquito Research and Control Unit Director Dr Jim McNelly told Finance Committee on Tuesday that the MRCU has no evidence to link its work with anecdotal claims of dead bees. McNelly has not yet responded to enquiries by CNS, following reports by concerned readers last week that several people saw a significant number of dead and dying bees on Seven Mile Beach shortly after the MRCU plane had flown over the area.

However, McNelly told the committee that he would be meeting with the Department of Environment because it has also raised concerns.

As committee members sought to find out more about investments being made into MRCU in the forthcoming budget period over and above the more than $9 million operating budget for the critical department, the director said he was aware of the report on CNS about the bees but had no other information.

Answering questions from Alva Suckoo (NEW), who said his constituents had raised concerns that the aerial spraying was having an adverse impact on bees, the MRCU director appeared dismissive that his department might be to blame.

“We do not have any data,” McNelly said, pointing to just the anecdotal report on Cayman News Service. “I have no evidence of any deleterious situations with bees and mosquito control. We are going to be sitting with the Department of Environment next week and discussing this.”

However, the minister responsible for the unit, Dwayne Seymour, added that he, too, had received reports about high numbers of dead bees, and asked the director to supply a report.

McNelly also revealed that, despite the problems with the ill-fated Oxitec experiment with genetically modified mosquitoes, one of the company’s former employees was now working at MRCU. McNelly said that Renaud Lacroix, who was the main coordinator for Oxitec during the release project, was employed by MRCU because he was a good scientist. But the minister interjected and told the committee that he was not aware of that and he intended to look into the situation, even though the law prohibits politicians from interfering with civil service recruitment.

A few days earlier, during Friday’s committee hearings, when the operation budget was being examined, Dr Alan Wheeler, the assistant director for research and development at MCRU, revealed his own continued objections to the Oxitec project. He said he did not believe it had any lasting impact or that the numbers of mosquitoes had increased as a result, but it simply wasn’t effective.

Wheeler said that Oxitec had overstated the success of the technology and he had concerns that the MRCU would direct resources from its regular spraying programme to this science when it was not proven, leaving open the possibility of mosquito numbers actually increasing.

As opposition members tried to piece together exactly how the project started, Wheeler said it began as a pilot study in East End in connection with the doctorate of a researcher at the MRCU. While Wheeler told the committee it began in 2012 and there were initially some impressive looking results, it was in fact 2010.

But after it was over, he said, the end results did not really appear to match up to expectations and he had directed that the MRCU should look elsewhere for solutions because a full-scale implementation of the GM mosquitoes would have been very costly.

But some time later the ministry began looking at the technology again, he said, despite the misgivings he aired with his seniors. Eventually, things were set for a potentially larger scale release here in 2015, by which time Premier Alden McLaughlin had taken over the health ministry. Government then committed to the project in 2016.

Although Wheeler had raised his concerns internally, government continued to press ahead with a pilot programme to release genetically modified mosquitoes in West Bay, with plans to the roll out the programme island-wide.

The government even used public cash to fight a legal action filed by some residents in West Bay. However, ultimately it was confined to just the West Bay trial, and when the results were shown to be disappointing, the project was cancelled after around $580,000 had been spent, as opposed to an $8 million nationwide programme.

Wheeler told the committee that the unit has been working on controlling the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes and has not been doing pre-egg hatch spraying over the swamp. However, they planned to return to that process next year as it has proved more effective in the past, he said. Some chemicals that the MRCU has used in the past have been withdrawn from the market and they are now using some natural products that are very specific to mosquitoes, he noted.

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Category: Government Finance, Land Habitat, Politics, Science & Nature

Comments (51)

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  1. Michel Lemay says:

    I am amazed by some of the answers from some commenters. Good thing they can sign anonymous to hide their stupidity. Bees are important for pollenisation and the honey they produce. I wonder where we are getting some of these characters from ? Just saying…

  2. Anonymous says:

    Bees are not native to these isles. Why do we care so much? The MRCU has a very important mission to accomplish and we should not let non native pests get in the way.

    • Anonymous says:

      And honey bees are not native to North America, either. You’re missing the point.

      Let me break it down,

      Chemicals sprayed everywhere in Cayman > chemicals land on everything and soaks into water > all insects including bees and bats die while humans are at risk for serious health risks since the chemicals are a known carcinogen.

  3. Anonymous says:


  4. Anonymous says:

    I’m conflicted about news stories like this because I have a phobia of stinging insects or anything resembling them (horse flies etc.), but I would lose most of my favourite foods without pollinators. I suppose my position is, save the bees, but keep them the hell away from me. If they like flowers so much, they should stay on and around them, and out the hell of my house/car/face. I was stuck outside my apartment for half an hour the other day because one landed right on the front door and the door opens inwards.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I’m sure if he are in lose enough contact with what they are spraying they will be killed , and about the scientist working at MRCU I knew that and I’m a tour bus operator, what rock is the minister hiding under? maybe he should spend less time at mariposa and pay more attention to the issues at hand

  6. Anonymous says:

    the govt never does anything wrong? everything they do is right? knottttt

  7. Anonymous says:

    This is bullshit, every evening the MRCU plane dispenses over the newlands area shortly after there is bees flying into the lights confused and some on the ground and looks as if they are trying to clean themselves off so there is definitely something that’s making them react to it…

  8. Anonymous says:

    For the past 60 days I see a fresh new batch of bees in the morning who come to die on my window sill. Its so sad.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Yawn. Science is not real. If God wants the bees to die, they will die.

  10. Anonymous says:

    We need to collect the dead bees and other insects, bats etc and have them tested (OFF ISLAND) for toxins. The proof will be in the pudding.

  11. Concerned says:

    How can it be selective just for mosquitos? Of course it will kill other insects and animals. Bees, mosquitos, and bats aside, they should be questioned about what the spray is doing to the humans living on the Island and the incredibly high cancer rate in Cayman.

  12. Anonymous says:

    I wonder do they have anything in stock that could help with the feral cats, chickens and Ching Chings? Don’t worry about the people, the dump is giving us all cancer anyway.

    • Anonymous says:

      @ 10:25 pm, Then you should also ask for the same concoction to be added to your water bottle. Then we can be rid of an evil, awful person like you are!

      • Anonymous says:

        You do know where the Water Authority is located right? No need to add it to my bottle thanks.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Bees are an incredibly important part of our God-given creation.
    No single person or even a collective of smart people can possibly understand the incredible complexity of our amazing planet the way it was originally designed by our wise, kind and humble Creator.
    Yet, we seem to know better than Him. We tinker with with His DNA and we splice genes and bombard His molecules that had no problems for thousands of years.
    Worse still, we say He doesn’t exist so that we can partake in abnormal behavioral proclivities that will ultimately wipe us out.
    It is time for people to wake up and stop believing lies. Our time here is short and is under intense scrutiny.
    We must acquit ourselves on the side of truth.

  14. Anonymous says:

    It maybe that Oxitec has not perfected “their science” as yet, but I believe their theory of genetically modifying mosquitoes to eliminate/significantly reduce the numbers is the right approach.

    Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation believes it too!

    Certainly, chemical spraying, or fogging (the world over)is a band-aid solution.

    So hopefully, they get it right and can come back to our “neck of the woods” to battle again.

    • Anonymous says:

      Do you think evolution knows something that modern science, Bill and Melinda Gates may not?

      Do they know from evolutionary point of view if mosquitoes are friends or foe?
      Would eradicating mosquitoes have serious consequences for ecosystems?

      Lets look at that from a totally different point of view.

      Iron is an element that is vital for life. For humans, metabolism requires Iron. Iron carries oxygen to tissues in our cells. The Sahara desert dumps billions tons of iron dust into the oceans to stimulate phytoplankton that supports the marine life of the North Atlantic and generate massive plant growth in the ocean.

      Modern medicine believes that more iron may be better for humans. But iron in excess can be a very bad thing. The iron regulation in the body is extremely complex. When a body senses a potential threat, iron gets shuttled to ferritin to be contained, so that the harmful invader cannot get to the iron causing Anemia of chronic disease (ACD). ACD can accompany life-threatening illness, anemia of inflammatory response is in fact a protective and natural mechanism that a human body uses to limit the amount of iron available when potentially harmful things get into our body. Cancer cells also have a huge hunger for iron. Taking iron pills for ACD could be harmful, even fatal.

      What does it have to do with malaria or mosquitoes? Malaria seemed to spare some and be deadly for others. May be it has to do with iron levels?
      Ancient physicians were barbers and blood letters. We now know that it was survival of fittest in action. May be African population is in a constant state of anemia because of mosquito bites which in turn protect them from harmful invaders they are exposed to?

      So there is always more than a human eye can see and everything happens in nature for a reason.

      • Anonymous says:

        Ironing out the Details: Exploring the Role of Iron and Heme in Blood-Sucking Arthropods.!po=0.00000

      • Anonymous says:

        Thinking outside the box! Every child should be Asking why 2+2=4, not blindly accepting it.
        Everyone wants to eradicate mosquitoes but nobody understands its role in ecosystems. Any attempt to look at mosquitoes under a different angle must be welcomed. The reason cancer is not cured, despite millions miles walked, ran, swum to find cure, because every cancer research scientist believes the “earth is flat”, figuratively speaking.

        Being introduced to conflicting viewpoints is crucial to understanding.

      • Anonymous says:

        I don’t think evolution is capable of knowing anything. Maybe you misunderstand how evolutionary pressures work. Feel free to take a course.

    • Anonymous says:

      Should countries be paying for Oxitec to perfect their science? Should we abandon other control methods whilst we wait for them to get their act together? Oxitec did not sell Cayman an idea that just might work; they sold us what they said was a proven technology. Their website listed Cayman as being a great success when that was not the case. They mislead Cayman and we paid them for the privilege.

      • Anonymous says:

        But it was a success! How do you think it wasn’t?!

        • Anonymous says:

          The MRCU scientists came out and said it did not work. Why do you think it worked?

        • Anonymous says:

          Its only taken as a success if you can see the big picture and understand it. In other words it won’t work here where ignorance is the norm.

          • Anonymous says:

            Oxitec alive and well and spreading their BS on the island. Whole thing stinks of corruption.

          • Anonymous says:

            So are you claiming you have seen the big picture? You must be very privileged and hold a high position with Oxitec or MRCU or both. Not very nice to call Caymanians ignorant but it was obvious from the start Oxitec treated Cayman with contempt. Just an island of ignorant people that you could experiment on.

  15. Anonymous says:

    I visit Cayman on a regular basis and have certainly noticed an enormous number of dead bees laying around. But more concerning was when I passed a high bat box at Rum Point and noticed several dead bats on the roadside and in the surrounding yard.
    CNS: please look into this as I strongly believe that the pumping of fogging chemical under this box on the occasion that I visited last, had this devastating effect on these tiny and vital creatures.

    • Anonymous says:

      It has been seen in other countries that bats are directly affected by pesticide use.

      • Anonymous says:

        But here, as 2:31 has pointed out, MCU spares nothing and no one when they do fogging. Bat boxes and unsuspected visitors get sprayed as if they’re guinea pigs. Frankly, what they do and how they do is criminal. Not sure why nobody challenge them in a court.

        From trip advisor:

        . Murtle says:

        20/06/2018 at 3:18 pm

        I am very concerned about this information as I am currently in the caymans visiting!! Tonight we were walking back from dinner at the westing and suddenly saw a truck with a siren. We weren’t sure what it was and suddenly this truck sprayed this something literally within approximately 10-15 yards of us. My husband suddenly said mosquito spays… we all turned away and covered our faces. I was SO UPSET!!! I couldn’t believe they sprayed this with us right there. I am horrified as to what side effects—if any— we might have from this!!!???. Murtle

  16. Anonymous says:

    I’m sure its purely a coincidence , but this past week the MRCU plane flew over our house in North Sound Estates & was laying down spray. Next morning , I counted 10 of the large garden bugs / beetles that your often see crawling about laying dead on our patio , all on their backs . They were all of different sizes and ages, but the same species. Odd that the young ones all came down with a terminal illness the same as the old ones, on the same evening. While we have also recently seen a species of dragonfly ( small body with dark wings) they also fell victim to whatever the beetles did .

  17. Anonymous says:


  18. Anonymous says:

    It’s worrying to me that he gave an outright denial, “I have no evidence of any deleterious situations with bees and mosquito control”. Without bothering to go into their MSDS to see exactly what chemicals they use, you can easily see that pollinators are sensitive to pesticide use:

    What scares me even more is if he is right – if there is no clear link between the specific chemical they use and bees dying, what toxic chemicals in the air are leading to the bees dying? Remember we don’t monitor the air or ocean pollution here – it could be the cruise ships, our insane amount of concentrated vehicles or countless other environmental factors.

    With all this being said there has been evidence of aerial spray killing bees,

    but don’t forget our obsession of using pesticides (pyrethroids) for our perfect gardens and grass in Cayman, (have you ever seen a natural looking garden or lawn here?).
    Excerpt below from

    Do pyrethroids kill other animals?

    For example, the spray kills monarch caterpillars, even weeks later later due to the presence of insecticide dried onto milkweed leaves (Oberhuaser et al. 2006).

    And the spray can kill honey bees, even if honey bees are inside their hives when the pyrethroids are spayed (workers bring small amounts back to the hive the following day if they land on treated plants or if they find small puddles of water to drink). Sublethal amounts of pyrethroids can change honey bee behavior and make workers smaller. I would imagine the pyrethroids would end up in the honey, too.

    And pyrethroids kill fireflies, which are most active in a yard in the late evening when mosquito-spraying franchises like to fog.

    My favorite group of unnoticed insects that are killed by evening pyrethroid applications are solitary bees, of which there are approximately 4,000 species in the United States. These are bees that collect pollen and nectar during the day but spend their evenings and nights in holes (e.g., mason bees) or clamped to low vegetation. E.g., look at this a two-spotted long-horned bee (Melissodes bimaculatus) from my front yard this summer. Everyone has dozens of species of native bees in their yards but few people realize it. But they are amazing pollinators and almost all adorable. So when pesticide applicators claim their pyrethroid sprays “don’t harm bees” or are “bee friendly”, that is entirely untrue. It’s simply a marketing slogan they were taught when they bought the franchise, and they will insist it’s true even when presented with evidence to the contrary.

    In closing, whether or not the spraying is directly linked, mass deaths of bees is extremely concerning and it should not be ignored.

    • Anonymous says:

      Systemic insecticides like Merit can kill bees and butterflies that land on plants too. Plenty of evidence of that on the net.

  19. Right ya so says:

    and again the heavy hand of Alden McLaughlin….. seems all he touches turns to failure and/or expense for us.

  20. Anonymous says:

    On top of that I predict this spray is also the reason for the constant spike in cancer in cayman. I’ve never seen a country with such a small population have so many people with cancer, must be these fumes we keep breathing in!

  21. Anonymous says:

    The absence of evidence IS NOT the evidence of absence.

  22. Real Caymanian says:

    I do not say that MRCU does not have something to do with this, but we have to understand that everything in life has a side effect even the medicines we take when we are sick have side effects, this is a department that is in constant stress preventing people from dying from dengue and other diseases caused by mosquitoes, what I want to say is that we must see the good side too, remember that here in the 60s and 70s you could not go outside during the day and the cows were suffocated by mosquitoes.

    • Anonymous says:

      12:42 I agree they have done allot of good. Many of us think that they could use a less harmful chemical however. The one they are using atm is very controversial.

  23. Anonymous says:

    Why did he not get up and go collect the dead bees and test for their poison? Got his head in the sand.

  24. Anonymous says:

    Unless the spray is made specifically for mosquitoes (can this be confirmed?) then it’s going to eradicate pretty much all insects. Remember when we had fireflys?

  25. Anonymous says:

    You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.

  26. Anonymous says:

    Everything done today is with the intention of saving that extra penny, even if that decision effects others well being.

    Bees breath through vents that vaccum the air into their body through openings. All it takes is for these vents to be coated with any of the chemicals being administered throughout the Island by MRCU and you’ll have dead bees all over the place as they won’t be able to breath oxygen and sufficate to death.

  27. Anonymous says:

    I do not BEElieve him.

  28. Anonymous says:

    Not just the areal spraying that’s concerning but the fogger truck that’s been going around allot recently too. I sympathize with MRCU as there job can not be an easy one but surely there is a better spray that can be used to minimize the effects on other species? I’ve seen quite a few dead butterflies as well recent;y which is also concerning…

  29. Anonymous says:

    Of course he would deny it. So he is the scientist maybe he should tell us what caused it then. After a series of fly over spraying over my area I notice an extraordinary number of bees drinking the water that I put out. Over the past years they have not only killed off the bees, but dragon flies, fireflies, butterflies and lady bugs have also been decreasing. These people need to come up with a plan that assist we the people and our wildlife and not destroy everything.

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