Millions of Bees Dead After Officials Spray for Zika-Mosquitoes

Millions of Bees Dead After Officials Spray for Zika-Mosquitoes
Save the Bees

The Zika virus is a real and legitimate fear, so finding a way to cut the mosquito population, which spreads the virus, is important. But in Dorchester County, South Carolina, millions of bees were killed when county officials sprayed pesticides to combat the disease-carrying insects.

The Chemical in Question – Naled

A 15-square mile area was blanketed in a pesticide called Trumpet, which contains a chemical called naled, on August 28. Earlier last month, I wrote about naled, a neurotoxin, and how some scientists were warning that it could be more damaging than Zika itself, particularly to the environment, and especially to butterflies and bees. [1]

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) acknowledged that naled posed a risk to wildlife, but downplayed the scientists’ concerns. The agency did this, even though the manufacturer’s label states that Trumpet is “highly toxic to bees exposed to direct treatment on blooming crops or weeds.” [2]

The Carnage

The morning after naled was applied, the damage elicited an emotional response from many locals. Beekeeper Juanita Stanley said her farm “looks like it’s been nuked.” [3]

Planes spraying the pesticide flew over the trees on her farm 3 times, and then, Stanley said, the silence was like a morgue. The buzzing was gone, and so were Stanley’s bees.

The Post and Courier newspaper reported a similar apocalyptic-sounding scenario:

“By Sunday afternoon, thousands of bee carcasses dotted Andrew Macke’s Spring House Lane property.” [4]

Macke is an amateur beekeeper and the fire captain of the town of Summerville who was at work when naled rained down from the sky and ruined his hobby. His wife called to inform him of the destruction.

According to Stanley, Macke lost 2 hives and thousands of bees. She said:

“He didn’t know they were going to spray. His wife called him. His bees are at their porch right by their home, and she saw dead bees everywhere.” [2]

Macke said:

“We have thousands and thousands of bees dead all around our pool deck and our driveway, just everywhere.” [1]

A quick Facebook search turns of photos of piles of dead honeybees. Apiaries must be burned because they are contaminated now, and can never be used again. [4]

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What Went Wrong

But some of the blame rests on county officials’ shoulders. The EPA recommends spraying naled between dusk and dawn, “while bees are not typically foraging.” However, in Dorchester County, the spraying occurred between 6:30 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. [1]

County officials insist they followed manufacturer instructions, which had recommended application “no more than 2 hours after sunrise” to minimize the risk to bees.

Dorchester County says it notified local beekeepers about the spraying and gave them plenty of time to prepare, and sent announcements to the local media on the morning of August 26 and on the evening of August 27. [4]

However, in a petition on Change.org pleading with officials to call off the spraying, county residents say the notices released on August 26 provided no details on the type of pesticide to be used, and that requests for more information from the county went unanswered.

The county typically sprays for mosquito control by truck, not from airplanes. Stanley said the county gave her notice before spraying by truck, but that was not the case with the aerial spraying. [2]

“That’s true when they sprayed by trucks; they told me in advance, and we talked about it so I could protect my bees. But nobody called me about the aerial spraying; nobody told me at all.”

Stanley said she “would have been screaming and pleading on their doorstep if they had.”

She went on:

“‘Do it at night when bees are done foraging,’ I would have told them. But they sprayed at 8 a.m. Sunday, and all of my bees were out, doing their work by then.”

Dorchester County says on its website that no more spraying is scheduled – and that if it does decide to spray again, it will notify residents 3 to 5 days in advance and contact registered beekeepers by phone or email.

 

Sources:

[1] The Huffington Post

[2] CNN

[3] The Washington Post

[4] NPR