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Joseph Alton – The Coming Bee-pocalypse? Collateral Damage of Mosquito Spraying

Everyone should support the humble bee. It’s thought that every third bite of food we take is there because of pollination by bees. Honey, when raw and unprocessed, may even be used as a wound covering for burns and other injuries due to its antibiotic effect. Yet bees are in big trouble, and we still don’t know all the reasons why. In the last decade, bee colonies are experiencing die-offs that have taken out a significant percentage of all the colonies in various areas.

Our growing concerns about the Zika, West Nile and other mosquito-borne viruses have led to the institution of mosquito control programs in many towns and cities in the U.S. One effective means of eliminating adult mosquitoes is aerial spraying with an organophosphate pesticide called Naled. Unfortunately, there’s been collateral damage to many beneficial insects, including the honeybee.

A recent series of aerial sprayings in Dorchester County, South Carolina, has killed millions of bees. Although relatively short acting, Naled is lethal to bees and daytime spraying has decimated the population of these important pollinators. The chemical is not meant to be used between sunrise and sunset, when bees are out foraging. The inappropriate timing of pesticide spraying has had the effect of killing off the colonies of many Dorchester County beekeepers. Dead worker bees were found in large clumps at hive entrances—one beekeeper lost 46 hives.

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