Zika spraying could be killing bees

Zika spraying could be killing bees

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - After Hermine came through the Carolinas, there has been a significant amount of flooding and standing water.

Standing water could be dangerous along the Grand Strand, especially in light of the travel-related case of the Zika virus that was recently confirmed.

And while standing water could pose a threat, it may not be as dangerous as the effect spraying for mosquitoes could have.

Last Sunday, a number of beekeepers lost dozens of bee hives and millions of bees in Summerville, S.C., a town outside of Charleston.

"I was angry that day. I couldn't understand how we could spray poison from the sky," said one man whose bees were among those killed by the spraying.

These bees were killed after Dorchester County sprayed pesticides from the air in an effort to kill mosquitoes that carry the Zika virus.

Just a few weeks ago, Horry County had a confirmed travel-related case of the Zika virus and officials took precautions to prevent the disease from spreading. Among them were spraying for mosquitoes.

Lisa Bourcier, Horry County spokesperson, said the county tracks where beekeepers are and they do not aerial spray over those areas.

In response to the Zika case a few weeks ago, Bourcier said since it was a residential area, there was no threat to bees from spraying for mosquitoes, which was done by backpack sprayers.

Bourcier added that while there is no direct consideration for bees in the Horry County Zika response plan, there is policy in general mosquito spraying.

Will Danford, the owner of Mountain Man Honey and Goods in Myrtle Beach, said there is a direct connection between bee deaths and the kind of spraying done to kill mosquitoes.

"It's been proven the latest neonicotinoids they have out there are causing a lot of problems for the bees," Danford said. "In fact, a lot of people are pushing for that being one of the major causes of the colony collapse."

As a consequence of trying to prevent the spread of the Zika virus, beekeepers are seeing their colonies collapse and the effect could be wide ranging.

"Yeah, we've had a tremendous loss," Danford said. "That's what's driving the price of honey up. And there's no getting around it; it's just going up."

According to The Nature Conservancy, since the 1970s, the number of honey bee colonies has dropped from 4 million to 2.5 million.

The danger that has ecologists, beekeepers and farmers worried, is that honey bees are the greatest resource for pollinating our agricultural products, a nearly $800 billion industry in the United States alone.

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