Mosquito eradication efforts in South Carolina have gone horribly wrong, resulting in almost total devastation to the indigenous bee populations. The pesticide used to target the Aedes albopictus and Aedes aegypti species of mosquito, which can carry and transmit the Zika virus, killed off millions of bees.
On Sunday morning, Dorchester County engaged in aerial spraying of an insecticide called naled, an insecticide that is banned in numerous countries, but legal for use in the U.S. since 1959. The county had used the insecticide previously but had only sprayed using trucks in the mosquito control program.
The near hysteria regarding the Zika virus, as there are several dozen cases of travel-related Zika in South Carolina, prompted Dorchester officials to make an ill-advised move to begin aerial spraying – even though the state health department reports no one has yet acquired the disease from a local mosquito bite.
The effects from the aerial spraying were disastrous.
Juanita Stanley, co-owner of Flowertown Bee Farm and Supply in Summerville described the aftermath of the spraying as being nothing less than total devastation after reporting the loss of 46 hives and over 2.5 million bees.
“My bee yard looks like it’s been nuked,” Stanley told the Associated Press.
The county says it provided plenty of warning, spreading word about the pesticide plane via a newspaper announcement Friday and a Facebook post Saturday. However, Stanley disagreed with the contention that fair warning was given.
“Had I known, I would have been camping on the steps doing whatever I had to do screaming, ‘No you can’t do this,’” Stanley said in an interview with Charleston’s WCSC-TV.
In response to the millions of bee deaths, county officials issued a statement Tuesday saying they were “aware that some beekeepers in the area that was sprayed on Sunday lost their beehives.”
Although naled kills mosquitos, and people are afraid of Zika related encephalitis, which has been attributed to the insects, the known effects of naled may actually be exponentially worse than anything Zika can muster for a broad cross-section of the population.