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Michigan lists methomyl as restricted use pesticide

Methomyl is an insecticide commonly used to control flies around livestock.
North Carolina State University
Methomyl is an insecticide commonly used to control flies around livestock.

The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) has restricted public access to methomyl.

The pesticide is most commonly used to control fly infestations around livestock. But in recent years, it’s been illegally used to poison nuisance wildlife across the state.

Skunks, opossums and raccoons have been poisoned using methomyl mixed with soda. Several dogs have been inadvertently killed this way as well. In 2010, a bald eagle died after feeding on a deer carcass tainted with methomyl. MDARD says this was likely an attempt to poison wolves.

In an undercover operation, state investigators visited 40 agricultural pesticide retailers. 25% of them recommended using methomyl-based fly bait to kill unwanted mammals.

Citing this widespread misuse, MDARD issued an order on Monday that strictly limits the sale and purchase of methomyl-based products to licensed vendors and pesticide applicators.

“When they buy that product, there will be a record that they bought it, “ said Brian Verhougstraete, pesticide section manager for MDARD. “So for someone who intends to misuse it, that could be a deterrent.”

Verhougstraete said he’s hopeful that these actions will be effective.

“This is something that we’ve been keeping an eye on for a long time. Other states are aware of this issue and have taken similar actions with success,” Verhougstraete said. “So yes, I’m fairly confident that we will see a good response from this measure.”

Methomyl-based fly baits won’t be available over the counter anymore. But, MDARD said there are plenty of methomyl-free alternatives.

Patrick Shea was a natural resources reporter at Interlochen Public Radio. Before joining IPR, he worked a variety of jobs in conservation, forestry, prescribed fire and trail work. He earned a degree in natural resources from Northland College in Ashland, Wisconsin, and his interest in reporting grew as he studied environmental journalism at the University of Montana's graduate school.