Image: Butterflies in bloom at Dow Gardens

Officials in southern Michigan are warning that pesticides targeting a deadly mosquito-borne virus could kill other insects, including rare and beneficial species.

The Detroit Free Press reports that the spraying to quell the alarming rise of Eastern equine encephalitis disease threatens essential pollinators such as bumblebees and the endangered Mitchell's satyr butterfly. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources calls the butterfly "one of the world's rarest."

Authorities have sprayed pyrethrin on more than 541,000 acres in recent weeks. The disease can cause inflammation of the brain and has killed at least four people in the state.

Department spokesman John Pepin says at-risk insects living in the sprayed areas include the Mitchell's satyr, the Silphium borer moth and Persius duskywing butterfly. Several bee species are already suffering population declines in Michigan.

Copyright 2019 Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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