Over 2.5 million bees were killed on Aug. 28 in South Carolina after Dorchester County sprayed a pesticide called Naled to combat Zika Virus.
Just one day after South Carolina sprayed, Denton followed suit—spraying two dozen homes in a neighborhood. Although no mosquitoes have tested positive for Zika in Denton, one resident contracted the disease. If Denton continues spraying, the city may accidentally kill its bees.
Candi Pardue, a beekeeper based in Ponder, Texas, is concerned about what they spraying could do to local bees.
“I have about 2.4 million workers on my payroll,” Pardue said. “I’m at about the same level as the beekeeper in South Carolina, so that story hit home with me.”
A local high school student who lives and keeps his bees in the neighborhood that the city sprayed almost took a devastating hit to his hives.
“I have a high school student I agreed to mentor, and he lives on the same block the spraying was done,” Pardue said. “When he became aware of it, they had already sprayed. He had bees at his house and he had to move them to safety.”
She explained that even if the spraying isn’t done directly over the hive, the bees are still affected.
“When you do spraying, it’s your foragers that take the hit,” Pardue said. “During a daytime spray they will be out and about. You just have to picture the foragers flying, getting sprayed and bringing it back. They are probably gonna die. If a bee dies in a hive, the bees fly the dead bodies out of the hive and then other bees have contact. Who’s to say what the residual effects are?”
Spraying for Zika virus is different than spraying for other mosquito related diseases. Several years ago Denton sprayed for West Nile Virus but gave residents enough notice that beekeepers were able to cover their bees and keep them safe. They also sprayed at night, when bees are not active.
“Denton aerial sprayed for West Nile 2012, but we had notice so we were able to protect our bees,” Pardue said. “The Zika is different, they sprayed in the middle of the day.”
The chemical used in the Zika spray is also clearly stated by the EPA as “harmful to honeybees”.
“All beekeepers need to be worried about it [spraying for Zika], especially if you’re in a more urban environment,” Pardue said. “We don’t know the full residual effects—we don’t have those answers yet, but is it a concern? Yes.”
Currently there is not a safe alternative to Naled, but the safety of our bees is important to consider. Killing the bees is not just about honey. As the main source of pollination for our planet, bees are essential to producing food and feeding our population. Without them we have no food.