Local News

State Cites Butterfly House for Pesticide Misuse

Posted March 14, 2007

— The state Department of Agriculture has told Durham's Museum of Life and Science that it probably violated state pesticide laws by not following label directions and not storing material properly in the Butterfly House.

The Butterfly House director, Uli Hartmond, told the state in a reply dated Tuesday that he and his staff have made changes and believe the exhibit, called “Magic Wings,” is “in full compliance” now.

The issue arose after horticulturist Brenda Holmquist said she found a pesticide had been used in the exhibit building that 300,000 people visit annually.

“When I came in that Sunday morning, the smell of chemicals in the conservatory was just horrible,” Holmquist said. She contacted the state.

The state letter noted that Hartmond told inspectors that “at least on one occasion you applied Ortho Systemic Insect Killer to plants while they were indoors” even though the label says it should only be used outdoors.

The inspectors also found two food containers on the same shelves as pesticides and a glass jar whose only labeling was “Roundup” written on the lid. Having food with pesticides and using unlabeled storage containers are forbidden.

Holmquist, who is on medical leave from her horticulture job at the Butterfly House, said the director alerted staff in July that he had used a spray inside the enclosed exhibit.

Hartmond said the Butterfly House used the pesticide, but he said it was once for test purposes.

“Unfortunately, afterward, we realized this was a no-no. So we reviewed it and have not used it again,” Hartmond said. The reason was spider mites on a tree in the enclosed exhibit, he said.

Typically, Hartmond said, the conservatory uses birds and other natural means to get rid of pests.

“This is a very safe environment, as proved by the butterflies happily flying around!” Hartmond said.

Hartmond told the state in his reply that, “My regular horticulturist and I obtained N.C. pesticide applicator licenses in fall of 2006 to increase the number of licensed staff.”

The Butterfly House opened seven years ago. This is the first time the state has found something wrong. It also is regularly inspected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.


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  • choirgirl Mar 15, 2007

    I don't know about tax dollars because this is NOT a free museum GWALLY, not like the ones in Raleigh. It is, by far, one of the nicest places to visit in the state and I have taken most of my out of town guests and family to see it even though it's a bit of a drive for us. But I have to agree with Montana - I wouldn't go without my SF husband along with me.

  • GWALLY Mar 15, 2007

    Butterfly House....Hummmmm.......Butterfly House.......Hummmmm, our tax dollars at work again. Last time I checked Butterflies did not need a house nor did I need one to look at them......Sounds like PORK to me. Just follow the money!!!!! How about a human house or two that helps the tax payer....butterflies neither pay taxes or need us to help them find a place to live.....!!!!! Oh there gows a butterfly past my window now.......he must be lost!!!!

  • S82R Mar 15, 2007

    The interesting thing is that they violated state law by applying pesticides as part of their job without a license. Had they been licensed and applied the chemical (against label directions) there could have been serious fines......

  • One Good Dad Mar 15, 2007

    I work in a prison....there are news worthy stories here everyday!! But you'll never see it on the news.....Never.

  • ZRex1102 Mar 15, 2007

    Hilarious blindjustice07...I don't even see this story being worthy of print. They're now in compliance so what's the need to even stir something up? I hope one of the happily flying butterflies poops on Holmquist.

  • Matthew 19_21 Mar 15, 2007

    Montana, you're the one who made it personal by attacking Durham. I'm proud to live there - warts and all. While I do like Raleigh, you couldn't pay me to live amongst the Stepford wives of bland bland Cary.

    This is a free country. If you don't like Durham, stay out. No one really cares why you stay out. Just stay out. I promise, you won't be missed. It will be a win-win. You'll be happy (and safe because crime is non-existent outside of Durham) and we'll be happy not to have to listen to you whine.

  • blindjustice07 Mar 15, 2007

    By all means, stay out of Durham. This article was worded specifically to take advantage of context issues. For instance, chemicals being stored near food... alot of the butterfly species exhibited feed on juices from oranges and also a synthetic nectar that is sprayed on the oranges. The article makes it sound like chemicals were being kept in the refrigerators at the museum's cafe. Not true. Also, if you have worked with any plants so much as yard weeds, you should know what "roundup" is. "Unlabeled" means no label at all. The only reason that this is a story at all is that the people who would have us all living in biodomes are driving cars powered by cooking oil need something to read too.

  • Montana Mar 15, 2007

    hey chris.nelson, just commenting that for some, the insecticide issue is news, just as the SunTrust tower is news for some. you don't have to make it personal. i probably will stay completely out of Durham once our museum membership expires. it's a scary place, IMO.

  • Matthew 19_21 Mar 15, 2007

    hey montana, why don't you do us a favor and stay COMPLETELY out of durham. sounds like you might have gotten a lungful of ortho systemic insecticide - hehe

  • Montana Mar 14, 2007

    I consider this a story, as we visit the museum and butterfly house often. I will say that this museum is the ONLY place we EVER visit in the drug-and-thug ridden city of Durham so the SunTrust Tower becoming a 4-star hotel just doesn't matter to us one bit 'cause we'll never venture anywhere near it.