Category Archives: Biology

Jeremy Hirsch, inventor of the Spartan Mosquito Eradicator

Spartan Mosquito v. Colin Purrington

AC2T, Inc, a Mississippi company valued at over $100 million, is suing me in Federal court over my review of the Spartan Mosquito Eradicator. The device is a plastic tube filled with sugar, salt, yeast, and water and is purported to act as an attractive toxic sugar bait. Box claims that device will eradicate (kill) approximately 95% of mosquitoes in a yard for 90 days — the company does not release efficacy data, but claims it possesses them. My opinion is that the devices don’t kill mosquitoes, and the above review explains my reasoning. The owners, Jeremy Hirsch and Chris Bonner of Hattiesburg, Mississippi, seem particularly upset that I shared my review with state pesticide officials as well as federal regulatory agencies (EPA, FTC). The suit was brought to bankrupt and silence me, so it’s a SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation).

Here’s the first part of my motion to dismiss the lawsuit:

“In this lawsuit, Spartan seeks to use its superior financial resources to silence a former college professor who has been exercising his constitutional rights to petition his government and advocate on an important environmental and public health issue: the effectiveness of commercially available mosquito control devices. In Mr. Purrington’s opinion, based upon his personal evaluation of Spartan’s product and his scientific knowledge, Spartan has made false and misleading claims about the efficacy of its product, thereby violating federal environmental regulations and potentially endangering public health. Most of the statements that Spartan cites in the Complaint reflect Mr. Purrington’s efforts to reach federal and state officials with information about Spartan’s misleading and false claims concerning the efficacy of its product. The remaining statements reflect Mr. Purrington’s efforts to raise public awareness of the matters about which he is petitioning, describe his own opinions, or contain facts that Spartan does not, and cannot, deny are true. Applicable law does not provide Spartan with a valid claim against Mr. Purrington under those circumstances. Notably, even if Spartan could show that Mr. Purrington should be liable for his statements, Spartan fails to plead facts that would suggest it has incurred even a cent of damage to its business to justify its claims. That omission suggests that Spartan has sued merely to intimidate Mr. Purrington rather than to recover any demonstrable damage to its business. For those reasons, Mr. Purrington respectfully requests that the Court dismiss the Complaint in its entirety, with prejudice.”

The full brief is here (PDF).

UPDATES

Spartan Mosquito, Jeremy Hirsch, and Bonner Analytical Testing Company are being sued in New York District Court for fraud. Here is the 16-page complaint.

Scientists in Florida concluded the Spartan Mosquito Eradicators do not work.

Help monarch butterflies by giving away milkweed plants

Like most monarch fans, I dutifully pack my yard with milkweed and hope the offering will somehow offset the effects of habitat loss and pesticide applications on population levels. But I’m not a complete idiot so I know that my contribution is probably rather inconsequential. Planting milkweeds for a few dozen monarchs is not really going to help population declines.

So this year I finally got around to something I’ve been meaning to do for years: give away lots of milkweed plants. My goal was to distribute free seedlings to several hundred people in my town (Swarthmore, Pennsylvania), ideally creating a concentration of milkweed that might make a difference. And because milkweeds are perennials and produce seeds that disperse with the wind, all of those initial milkweeds would do their reproductive duties for years, seeding vacant lots and such. Perhaps after a few years we will start seeing flocks of monarchs again (I’m an optimist).

This post summarizes how I grew the plants and gave them away, just in case anyone else might be nudged to do something similar. If one person in every town did this we might reverse the yearly declines in monarch populations.

Step one was to collect seeds. If you’ve never done it before it’s easy — just pick browning pods and let fully dry. Here’s a photograph from 2018 showing some swamp milkweed pods:

You don’t need to, but I decided to clean my seeds. Here’s the end product:

Milkweed seeds germinate best if they are exposed to a period of cold, ideally when moist. So all I did was scatter the seeds on a few large containers (actually, unused litterboxes). Come spring I had hundreds of seedlings emerge.

As seedlings emerged I’d transfer them to small Dixie cups. I soon covered almost every square inch of sunny space in my yard. (That’s my bee hotel, by the way.)

Then I started giving them away to people in town who had expressed an interest in growing milkweed. I put the seedlings into cheap paper cups and then delivered sets of threes to doorsteps. This used up about two dozen seedlings.

To get people to plant milkweed I thought it might be fun to leave pots around town along with, “please adopt us” notes. I gave away probably 100 this way. Usually the pots would be taken within an hour or so. It was fun leaving them in obscure spots around town, and I was hoping to build some curiosity about who was doing this and why.

Here’s the note I left with each set. I went with “rose milkweed” because I worried that “swamp milkweed” might be a turn-off for some. But same plant: Asclepias incarnata, my favorite milkweed. And it’s native.

The next phase was more public. I made a Facebook page called, Swarthmore Monarch Boosters and used it to promote Events where I’d give away milkweed seedlings. Here’s a screenshot of the page:

Here are seedlings bound for one of the giveaway events. There were even more pots in the front.

Here’s my display table. I held the events on days when large crowds would be expected, so probably 95% of takers were people who didn’t realize they even wanted milkweed plants.

In total, I probably gave away 500 milkweed plants this year. I’m not positive it was a success but I think I noticed more monarchs around town this year. As anecdotal evidence, I wasn’t even trying to photograph a monarch when taking this picture:

If you have milkweed plants and seed pods, give it a try in 2020. It would be especially good if garden clubs across the country made this a priority.

Contact me if you’re on the fence.

Spotted lanternfly photographs

I’ve posted a few pics of the invasive spotted lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula) on Instagram but thought I’d feature my full collection in a post. The insect is extremely photogenic but it’s also good to let people know what different stages look like so that everyone can kill them. I still need some early-instar pics as well as some showing spotted lanternflies being consumed by parasites and fungi.

Adult showing colorful underwings. Presumably to advertise toxicity to predators. Binky Lee Preserve, Chester Springs, PA.
Gravid female. John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge, Tinicum, PA.
Egg mass on a tree. The surface is a waxy substance that covers several rows of eggs. John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge, Tinicum, PA.
Third-instar nymph. Goshen Trail, Newtown Square, PA.
Three adults on a tree. Trees can have thousands. Binky Lee Preserve, Chester Springs, PA.
Sap oozing from feeding site wound. Ailanthus tree. Rose Tree Park, Media, PA.
Slick at base of Ailanthus tree caused by dripping honeydew (sugary excrement). Rose Tree Park, Media, PA.
Adult caught in spider web. Hildacy Preserve, Media, PA.

Below is a map showing the distribution of spotted lanternflies in North America as of October 3rd, 2019. Here’s a current map. To add a sighting, please sign up for iNaturalist (free) and post a photograph.

Here’s what the distribution is likely to be in the future (per Wakie et al. 2019):