Local News

State Cites Butterfly House for Pesticide Misuse

Posted March 14, 2007 8:27 p.m. EDT
Updated March 14, 2007 9:30 p.m. EDT

— 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.