Santa Monica Observer - Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words

By Liz Miller
Observer Staff Writer 

Millions of Honeybees Die after Poorly Planned Zika Spraying

Many bee owners weren't notified about the Sunday morning spray

 

September 5, 2016

Millions of bees were lost.

Millions of honeybees died within minutes after being sprayed with an insecticide targeting Zika-carrying mosquitoes.

In their first aerial spraying in 14 years, Dorchester County used a product called Trumpet.

The manufacturer provides a label warning that it is "highly toxic to bees exposed to direct treatment on blooming crops or weeds. To minimize hazard to bees, it is recommended that the product is not applied more than two hours after sunrise or two hours before sunset, limiting application to times when bees are least active."

Dorchester County Administrator Jason Ward believed they were following that warning, but the spray fell from the sky between 6:30 and 8:30 am, a time when the sun was already up and bees are out and active.

Many bee owners watched in horror as their insects fell from the sky.

Ward said they chose that time because they believed very few people would be out.

County policy is to not spray an insecticide harmful to bees after the sun has been up for two hours, but bee keepers say that insects are often up with the sun, so the spraying should have taken place at night.

Trumpet contains the poison naled, which is recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for control of adult Aedes aegypti, the mosquito that transmits Zika.

Four local residents have been diagnosed with the Zika virus.

Ward insists that they followed recommendations and state policy. They sent an alert to professional beekeepers that are on a local mosquito control registry by phone or email, and also posted a notice on their website two days before the spray.

At least one beekeeper said that she had been notified in the past about truck sprays, but received no notice this time. Juanita Stanley, co-owner of Flowertown Bee Farm and Supply in Summerville, South Carolina, tearfully told CNN that she'd lost 46 hives and 3 million bees within minutes. She will have to destroy all of her hives and equipment because they have been contaminated by the Trumpet.

One-third of our crops require bee pollination.

In the future, the county plans on expanding their alert list, and also promises to give a full five day's notice on their website.

If I were a beekeeper, I'd be checking that site every single day.

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Honeybees have already been under siege in the United States.

According to the USDA, 30% of the bees now die prematurely, thanks to mites, diseases, and limited diets. This affects more the than the price of honey, as those same bees are pollinators for many fruits and vegetables. Nearly one-third of our crops need bees in order to produce.

Fewer bee colonies means fewer growers have access to enough pollinators, and those who do get bees have to pay much more for the service.

When bees are lost, we all pay the price.

 

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