Zika spraying kills millions of honeybees

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The pictures are enough to bring one to tears. A carpet consisting of millions of tiny honeybees cover the earth after they had been sprayed with an insecticide that was actually intended for the killing of mosquitoes that carry the Zika virus. Beekeeper Juanita Stanley tells of the energy around the property on Saturday as the bees were about pollinating and foraging, producing honey for the cold winter months. Now the only thing noticeable is the unmistakable stench of death. A variety of maggots and insects are feasting on the honey and bee larvae that are still inside the hives.

Image Source: Youtube
Image Source: Youtube

Stanley, who is the co-owner of Flowertown Bee Farm and Supply located in South Carolina in a town called Summerville, said that she had lost 46 beehives which comes to a total of over 3 million bees. It took just a couple of minutes after the spraying on Sunday morning before the bees started dying in huge numbers. Those bees that didn’t die due to actual spraying, got into contact with the poison while trying to take out the dead, she further described the horrifying scene.

She will now have to destroy her hives and their honey along with all of her equipment to get rid of the contamination. Stanley also told of a Fire Captain of Summerville, Andrew Macke, who had been keeping bees as a hobby and had also lost thousands of bees. Because they were not informed of the aerial spraying that was to take place, they didn’t know that they needed to protect their hives. She said that Andrew had two hives and didn’t know about the planned spraying either. He was called by his wife and was shown the dead bees strewn all over the porch and the yard as his bees were kept at their porch, right by the house.

Image Source: Beneficialbugs.org
Image Source: Beneficialbugs.org

This horrible tragedy could easily be repeated all over the country due to the fact that cases of Zika keep popping up everywhere and local mosquito control areas have a real tough job of getting a handle on the protection of their residents and easing their fears is an almost impossible task. The deadly mist was released from the skies between 6:30 am and 8:30 am on Sunday morning.

It was the first time in 14 years that aerial spraying had to be implemented according to the County Administrator of Dorchester County, Jason Ward, but he explained that it formed part of the county’s efforts in combating the Zika virus after four locals had been diagnosed with it. He also explained that they chose Sunday morning and that time because they knew most people would not be out by that time on a weekend. They thought that by doing this the bees would be protected too because the sun wouldn’t have been up for more than two hours. This is why it was scheduled early.

Image Source: USA Today
Image Source: USA Today

The product the county used is called Trumpet and it contains naled, a pesticide recommended by the CDC (Centers for Disease control) and EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) for the control of the Aedes aegypti mosquito which transmits the Zika virus. The manufacturer’s label states that Trumpet is extremely toxic to bees when they are exposed to the direct treatment through blooming weeds or crops but the effect can be minimized. Safety measures for bees include not applying the product more than two hours after the sun has risen or two hours before it sets so the use is limited to the times when the bees aren’t very active.

Ward said that they followed the recommendation exactly as it is the policy that the state laid out. They only use pesticides that the state approves for use. He also says that the county did notify residents of the scheduled spraying in the form of a notice they posted on the website. The notice was placed at 9:00 am on Friday, two days before the spraying was to commence. It also alerted all of the beekeepers who were on the list of the local mosquito control by phone or by email which is a common practice before any kind of pesticide spraying takes place.

Image Source: BBC.co.uk
Image Source: BBC.co.uk

Stanley says these things were true if spraying occurred by means of trucks as they had conversations about protecting her bees but she was never informed of aerial spraying by anyone. If they had she would definitely had been pleading for them to reconsider. She would have urged them to do it at night after the bees had completed their daily foraging. At this point she was reduced to tears. She added that by 8:00 am on Sunday her busy little bees were out working already.

Ward stated that many beekeepers that consider it just a hobby is usually not on the local mosquito control registry and would not have been informed of the planned spraying and this is why Macke hadn’t been informed. He concluded by saying they were saddened by the huge loss of hives that were suffered and that they had taken a closer look at their procedures. In future they will give notice 5 days before spraying and they will also include more local beekeepers on their registry to be informed personally next time.

Stanley did say no malice was suspected but that the pain of the loss of her honey girls aren’t lessened by this notion. To her it wasn’t about the honey but rather about raising her bees that is then sold to others, spreading her honey girls to the world out there. She feels that she cannot help the outside world anymore because they are all dead.