Dorchester County officials announced on Aug. 26 that they would be spraying parts of the county with naled, an insecticide that kills mosquitoes on contact, after the Department of Health and Environmental Control reported four cases of Zika virus two days prior.
The insecticide has the same deadly effect on bees.
The aerial spraying began on Aug. 28. County officials usually opt for truck spraying, but the recent spread of Zika prompted officials to use a new method—one that was detrimental to local beekeepers.
“All of my equipment is contaminated, my honey is contaminated, my cone is contaminated, I’m totally shut down here,” Juanita Stanley told Live 5 News.
Stanley is a registered beekeeper and co-owner of Flowertown Bee and Farm Supplies. According to Stanley, she didn’t receive her usual notification about the scheduled aerial spraying.
However, according to Dorchester County officials, a notice was sent on Aug. 26 and a second notice was sent the following day to media and social media outlets.
“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.
She lost 46 hives and more than 2 million bees.
“I have to start all over growing more bees for the business to provide what I need to provide for customers,” she said.
The county acknowledged the bee deaths on Aug. 30. “Dorchester County is aware that some beekeepers in the area that was sprayed on Sunday lost their beehives,” County Administrator Jason Ward said Tuesday, according to the Charleston Post and Courier. “I am not pleased that so many bees were killed.”
A local resident started a petition to immediately cease aerial spraying in the area. The petition has over 3,000 signatures.
The mass death comes at a time when bees, which are essential for pollination and food production, are in rapid decline, a trend scientists warn could greatly impact the rest of the ecosystem.