Recent attempts to stop the spread of the Zika virus have had some unexpected negative side effects. The spray that was used to kill the Zika mosquitoes has also killed millions of bees in South Carolina.
The signs of mass poisoning were immediately noticeable. Dead worker bees littered the areas around the hives. One apiary in the area reported that 46 hives died in this way. That would amount to around 2.5 million bees.
Scientists have collected soil samples to determine the precise culprit, but bee owners are certain they already know the cause for the mass deaths. They are convinced that the pesticides used to kill the Zika mosquito have also inadvertently destroyed their hives.
The chemical that was used in this case is called Naled. The US started using this pesticide in 1959. It’s quite efficient, and because it dissipates very quickly, it is not harmful to humans. However, experts do suggest that people should avoid exposing themselves to the substance.
So far, there are several cases of people infected with the Zika virus in South Carolina. But none of them have acquired the disease locally. Still, authorities are not taken any chances. Between the spread of the Zika virus, and West Nile disease, officials are doing all they can to prevent a health crisis.
Until now, South Carolina has spread pesticides from trucks. This way, they are sure to get not only mature mosquitoes, but larvae as well. On Sunday, however, Dorchester County tried a new tactic. They used planes to spread the chemical over large areas of the county. So for two hours, between 6.30 a.m. and 8.30 a.m., planes spread their deadly mist over the county.
County authorities argue they did everything they could to inform residents of the county about their plans. But local beekeepers disagree.
Bees Are Disappearing Worldwide
This incident comes on the background of worldwide concern regarding the rapidly declining bee population. Scientists have been aware of the issue for quite some time. Studies argue that among the chief causes of the shrinking bee population is pollution, climate change and loss of habitat.
Bees play an essential role in the food chain. Most plants would be unable to breed if bees did not carry pollen from one plant to another. The disappearance of bees is such a serious issue it has received its own name. Experts have dubbed the phenomenon honeybee Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). In 2014 alone, the USDA spent 3 million dollars to combat this issue.
Spraying against local pests is not uncommon in the South Carolina area. And it can be done in such a way as to not harm local bee populations. In many counties, the spraying is performed at night. During the night, bees are not active, so they don’t encounter the deadly poison. And if beekeepers have enough time to prepare, they can secure the bees’ hives, food and water supplies, so they don’t get contaminated.
On Sunday, however, weather conditions changed the bees’ behavior. because it was so hot during the day, the bees clustered outside the entrance of the hive to cool down. This sort of cluster is known as a “beard”.
The beekeepers affected by the spraying have not yet mentioned whether or not they will try to seek retribution for the hives they lost.
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