“It’s not about the honey. It’s about saving the bees. Because of my mission with my business, this is so much more devastating. I am trying to do the opposite of what just happened. They are in a sanctuary where I can protect them, and now they are destroyed.” This was what Juanita Stanley of Flowertown Bee Farm and Supply located in Summerville, South Carolina told The Post and Courier, a local newspaper, after her entire bee farm was nearly wiped out by an unannounced aerial pesticide spraying for mosquitos. She claimed that when she headed out to check on her bees on Sunday, August 28th, she made a devastating discovery of 2.3 million dead bees scattered around her farm. She shared a similar story with other local bee keepers in the county of Dorchester, who all claimed that they were never notified of the aerial spraying and were now suffering from the dramatic decline in the local bee populations. The local government in Dorchester county claimed to have notified the public by publishing a warning in the city newspapers and on their website the week before, however, the message never reached the bee keepers nor the majority of the public.
By Friday, August 26th, Dorchester County had reached four confirmed cases of the Zika virus, a contagious virus that is carried through mosquitos and passed onto humans through mosquito bites. County officials decided to spray pesticide to reduce the mosquito population, something that they were used to doing. However, this time they decided to do an aerial spray, using Naled as the pesticide. Naled is a chemical that has been widely used by the government to control mosquito populations for almost 60 years. Unfortunately, the pesticide not only decreases mosquito populations, but it is also extremely toxic to bees. It is recommended that the aerial spraying of Naled is done between dusk and dawn, or from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m., while hives are not active and foraging. On August 28th, the county sprayed between 6:30 a.m. and 8:30 a.m., when the bees where beginning their foraging and honey production. The county normally does sprayings by truck and notifies the local bee keepers of the sprayings, but this time they neglected to inform them and left every bee in the county vulnerable.
The estimated amount of bee deaths on bee farms, are in the millions; however, we need to be asking the question, “How has the wild bee population been affected?” Unfortunately there is no way to accurately answer this question, but taking into consideration the severe impact that it made on the population on honeybee farms, we can only assume that thousands or even millions of wild bees have also experienced a terrible outcome. This becomes an even bigger concern as the spring and summer months come to an end and winter approaches. Honeybees utilize these humid months to produce honey and pollinate various flowering plants. This is something that can only be done in warmer months, so with winter just around the corner and bee populations now suffering in Summerville and in many other areas around the world, how will the remaining honeybees be able to make up for this in time for the next spring?
Through many ISF campaigns this year, including #BackyardHeros, the Ian Somerhalder Foundation has expressed to the importance of protecting bee populations by protecting hives and the plants that bees love to promote pollination and insect population growth. Many volunteers and supporters of ISF and other organizations for environmental conservation and sustainability have worked diligently in spreading the word that every living thing on Earth is crucial in the success of the planet. With climate change and organismic conservation being a big political issue this year, we should start looking into how our government and society actually reacts to these issues. How can we, as a community of activists, combat these issues and spread more awareness of conservation and sustainability? Although this situation was completely unintentional, it can be seen as a learning opportunity for the Summerville community and other communities around the world to be more aware of the impact that they make on their environment on a daily basis.
Written by Maria Pereira