Insects, pesticides, cancer and bird populations

To: birding-aus <>
Subject: Insects, pesticides, cancer and bird populations
Date: Tue, 25 Apr 2000 22:25:26 +1000
This is a serious call for information and debate about the
impact of pesticides on our birds. Is anyone monitoring insects
(bird food!) or toxins and their effects (other than John Young
and others in relation to the Queensland sugar cane fields)??

People who lived around here 30 years ago tell me their
fly-screens would be covered with insects to the extent you
could not see out. Small bats were sometimes numerous. Now small
bats are scarce and the screens are called "security doors" - if
you leave them open few insects fly in.   

In the Vic Babbler (the Victorian newsletter of Birds Australia)
for December 1999, Colin Officer (a doctor) wrote about his
belief that many insectivorous birds might be disappearing
because of toxic illnesses caused by pesticides and mentioned
other doctors noticing clusters of human illnesses, such as
"chronic fatigue syndrome" and cancers amongst younger people.  

Here too there were "clusters" of cancers after the 1950s when
dieldrin and other pesticides were sprayed around (to kill
Argentine Ants even though the manufacturers said their products
would only control, not eliminate, this introduced pest). 
Swallows disappeared from the local golf courses and many
honeyeaters died in agony. (See, for instance, "Children, Fools
and Pesticides" by Yvonne Dolman, 1990)

As Colin Officer said there are lots of reasons for declines in
bird populations but are there any studies you know which relate
to toxins in birds, frogs or humans ?  Is the decline in sugar
ant populations, food for white-throated needletails, in my area
only due to development?).

Are there longitudinal studies of insect biomass ? If not, why
not ? 
David Suzuki said birds are still the canaries which detect
pollution, but now in open country rather than coal mines.

Michael Norris
Hampton, Vic.

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