On September 1, 2016 an aerial spray of an “insecticide targeting Zika-carrying mosquitoes” was conducted in South Carolina. Local beekeepers commented saying adults, children, and animals should have been brought inside during the spraying, but residents were unaware that an aerial spray was going to occur. This “was the first aerial spraying in 14 years” (Lamotte, 2016). Three million bees were killed during this time, leaving local beekeepers bee-less. Not every bee died immediately though, as survivors attempted to clean out their hives, they were then poisoned and later succumbed to their doom.
As Zika continues to plague our country, aerial spraying could be used more frequently to target mosquitoes carrying the virus, but it can also have serious consequences for other species. The product used for the spraying is known to be extremely harmful to bees. There are specific times that this spray is recommended, and the County Administrator clarified that they did take the right precautions during this instance.
Many local Bee enthusiasts were upset that they were not notified, but the county responded saying they posted on their website two days prior to the spraying. Beekeepers who are on the local mosquito registry were also notified, but those who practice beekeeping as a hobby are not on the local registry and therefore, were not informed. In the past, the county has done insecticide spraying by truck and informed locals, but the aerial spraying was not as widely discussed or known. A local beekeeper, Nina Stanley, became very emotional when discussing the topic, and would have requested for the spraying to have been done at night when her bees were least active and not out foraging. Although the beekeepers and hobbyists were aware this event was not out of malice, it resulted in a significant loss of bees and severely impacted their owners.
Bees are viewed by many people as a pest that wants nothing more than to sting them and ruin their day. However, this is simply not the case. Bees are a very important and crucial part of agriculture across the country. They provide pollination processes to a variety of different crops including blueberries, cucumbers, and apples. Farmers rely on honey bees to pollinate so much that they will have hives placed on their farms to provide pollination for their crops (“Why are Honey Bees”). In fact, pollination services furnished by various insects in the United States, mostly by bees, have been valued at an estimated $3 billion each year (Gorman, 2017).
While farmers heavily rely on bees to help produce more crops, their population and overall numbers have decreased significantly. One species in particular, the rusty patched bumble bee, has plunged nearly 90 percent in abundance and distribution since the late 1990s. In January of 2017, the rusty patch bumble bee was officially recognized as an endangered species (Gorman, 2017). There are a number of factors that have led to their decline in population. Instances like the insecticide spraying in South Carolina only extenuate the effects that our actions can have, which resulted in a massive loss of a species directly affecting local residents as well.
“Alt National Park Service. ‘The new administration puts off listing bumble bee as endangered.’ 12 Feb. 2017, 10:45 a.m. Facebook Post.”
Gorman, Steve. “U.S. Lists a Bumble Bee Species as Endangered for First Time”. Scientific American. Nature Publishing Group, 11 Jan. 2017. Web. 12 Feb. 2017.
LaMotte, Sandy. “Zika Spraying Kills Millions of Honeybees.” CNN. Cable News Network, 02 Sept. 2016. Web. 12 Feb. 2017.
“Why are Honey Bees Important to Crops and Farmers?” Bees Matter. Web. 12 Feb. 2017.