‘Stop. This is Crazy’: Zika Spraying Spurs Bee Apocalypse in S.C.

Honeybee Colony

Juanita Stanley, a veteran beekeeper from South Carolina, has reported that spraying against Zika-carrying mosquitoes killed more than 3 million bees on her private property last week.

Although mosquito control authorities in Summerville haven’t used the aerially-spread spray directly over her bee hives, Stanley lost 46 colonies in just a few weeks. The woman explained that authorities have “poisoned [all her honeybees] from the sky.”

“Stop. This is crazy. It’s like using a sledgehammer to crack a peanut,”

the woman told authorities.

She added the damage done is “beyond comprehension,” and explained that she and the community cannot live without the honeybees.

Usually, pest-control agents use anti-mosquito spray after dusk when honeybees rest in their hives and beekeepers can take additional measures to protect them. Last week, however, county officials decided to use the spray early on Sunday morning.

Authorities’ Response

Dorchester County officials said that they had to begin spraying some areas since four county residents contracted Zika after they returned from abroad. As a result, Summerville residents urged local officials to take some action.

In South Carolina, however, there hasn’t been a single case of local transmission. Nearly all 46 confirmed cases came from abroad. In just one case, a patient got the virus through sexual intercourse.

As of now, the only state with active transmission is Florida, but not entirely, just the Miami and Tampa areas.

Summerville beekeepers currently want to learn the reasons for spraying if there is no risk of active transmission in their area.

Authorities explained they spotted Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, the species which carries Zika, close to Charleston.

Beekeepers Not Convinced

In response, beekeepers said the number of mosquitoes was too small to pose a risk. What’s more, the state’s Department of Health and Environmental Control said earlier this year that there was no risk of Zika transmission to the people or mosquitoes in South Carolina.

But Dorchester County officials replied they have a responsibility to the county’s residents.

“[…] the health of our citizens is of primary concern,”

the county’s administrator Jason Ward said in a recent interview.

He explained that the county had a “historic rainfall” paired with a flood last fall. So, many areas of the county are now covered in standing water, a perfect environment for mosquitoes to thrive. Ward also noted that the winter has been mild and the county hasn’t seen a “real hard breeze.”

When Stanley heard Ward’s rationale she was outraged. She couldn’t grasp the officials’ logic in killing “everything in case someone might get [the infection].” She underscored that the state’s only Zika patients didn’t get the disease within the state.

Federal Recommendations

The National Institute of Food and Agriculture declined to comment on the situation, but the CDC did. CDC’s Division of Vector-Borne Diseases recently said that the agency recommends Zika spraying in travel-associated transmissions only if the insects that spread the virus are in the environment.

The CDC explained that in these cases, spraying would prevent disease-carrying insects from taking hold in the native species.

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