Why did LA get sprayed with a pesticide?
August 11, 2012 4:33 PM   Subscribe

Was a pesticide sprayed over Los Angeles in the late 80s?

I remember a period of days in the 80s when we weren't allowed outside for recess because the entire city was sprayed with a pesticide. Is my memory correct?
posted by HotPatatta to Grab Bag (13 answers total)
Response by poster: Fruit flies just popped into my head. Was that the issue?
posted by HotPatatta at 4:34 PM on August 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Hmm, I just did a quick search on Google around these keywords and found this article about Mediterranean Fruit Flies, and a 1980 invasion in Los Angeles and elsewhere in which malathion was sprayed.
posted by iadacanavon at 4:36 PM on August 11, 2012

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malathion has some info about that.
posted by dws at 4:38 PM on August 11, 2012

Yeah, I remember the Med Fly spraying when I was a kid, too, up in the Bay Area. Although, I only remember them doing it in the late evenings. I seem to remember having to wash our sticky car every time, since we didn't have covered parking for it.
posted by ctmf at 4:40 PM on August 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yes. Cars inside too at night.
posted by cecic at 4:40 PM on August 11, 2012

Response by poster: The medfly! Yes, that was it.

Interesting footnote from Wikipedia:

In December, a two-page letter addressing Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley was sent to the Los Angeles Times and Fresno Bee ostensibly from an "ecoterrorist organization" calling itself "The Breeders". The group claimed that it was responsible for the summer release of the medflys as retaliation for the environmental damage caused by the Malathion aerial spraying by the state. It also threatened to expand its medfly infestation into the San Joaquin Valley. The letters claimed that officials would have noticed an uptick in medfly numbers around March 1989.The group promised to make the aerial spraying program politically and financially impossible through the coordinated release of thousands of medflies. As early as December 1989 the group's claim was taken seriously. Initially, the letter was dismissed as "some crank trying to get a lot of publicity", but there was evidence the group played a role in the infestation.Certain characteristics of the 1989 medfly infestation led investigators to the conclusion that someone was responsible for deliberately releasing medflies;The dense medfly population coupled with the low number of medfly larvae found in the infested areas left entomologists baffled as to how the infestation could be completely natural. The writer of the letter, and any members of the alleged group, were never identified.
posted by HotPatatta at 4:46 PM on August 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

Med flies! I also was thinking Paraquat.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 4:52 PM on August 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

This spraying was a plot point in the Robert Altman movie, Short Cuts.
posted by h00py at 5:51 PM on August 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

This spraying was a plot point in the Robert Altman movie, Short Cuts.

This is what I came in to say!
posted by RustyBrooks at 6:00 PM on August 11, 2012

I still remember the "Do not take fruit or vegetables out of this area" signs on the freeway (5, I think).
posted by luckynerd at 6:51 PM on August 11, 2012

I remember going around the neighborhood with my dad distributing fruit-tree stripping-and-disposal kits (extra-large trash bags plus informational literature) to all the neighbors.
posted by Lexica at 7:16 PM on August 11, 2012

On the Emoryville Mud Flats, someone crafted a Med Fly out of the found objects.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:53 PM on August 11, 2012

Yes, med flies and Malithyon, I remember. I also remember taking some oranges on a road trip during that time from sacramento to la and my mother behaving like we were smuggling heroin.
posted by pazazygeek at 9:14 AM on August 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

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