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S.C. County Sprays For Mosquitoes But Accidentally Takes Out Millions Of Bees

Honeybees are vulnerable to the kind of pesticide sprayed in Dorchester County, but hives — at least those maintained by beekeepers — could have been protected, by the timing of the spraying or by physical barriers. They weren't, and millions of bees died.

It wasn't meant for the bees.

The pesticide raining down from the sky in Dorchester County, S.C., was meant to kill mosquitoes — for the sake of safety, the county says. Mosquitoes, after all, can carry West Nile and Zika, and four cases of Zika were recently confirmed in the county.

But on Sunday morning, from 6:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m., as the county conducted aerial spraying, the bees fell by the millions.

"By Sunday afternoon," The Post and Courier newspaper reports, "thousands of bee carcasses dotted Andrew Macke's Spring House Lane property." The amateur beekeeper — also the fire captain of the town of Summerville — was at work when his wife called.

Beekeepers in Dorchester County sound downright apocalyptic when they talk about the impact of the spraying.

"We have a mass killing," Macke's wife told him.

"My bee yard looks like it's been nuked," Juanita Stanley, co-owner of Flowertown Bee Farm and Supply, told the Post and Courier.

Flowertown lost more than 2 million bees, Stanley says.

On Facebook, Flowertown posted photo after photo of piles of dead bees. The bee farm also posted images and videos of the burning of apiaries — which have to be destroyed now that they've been contaminated, the owners say.

Dorchester County says it provided sufficient notice to local beekeepers, with announcements sent to the local media on Friday morning and Saturday night.

But in a petition on seeking to call off the spraying, Dorchester County residents say the notices released Friday didn't provide any details on the type of pesticide to be used, and that requests for more information from the county weren't answered.

"This is both disturbing and frightening to many that live in the area that is to be covered," the petition reads. "There are live and privately owned beehives that are in this area and to the best of our knowledge, the chemicals to be used are toxic to honeybees."

Indeed, CNN reports that the county used a product containing naled, which is "highly toxic to bees," according to the manufacturer of the pesticide used.

The product is not supposed to be used "more than two hours after sunrise or two hours before sunset," a recommendation that Dorchester County Administrator Jason Ward says the county followed.

The county normally sprays for mosquito control by truck, not from airplanes. And it generally notifies beekeepers by phone or email — something the county says it also did in this case, CNN reports, although beekeeper Juanita Stanley says she didn't get such a message. Here's CNN:

" 'That's true when they sprayed by trucks; they told me in advance, and we talked about it so I could protect my bees,' Stanley said. 'But nobody called me about the aerial spraying; nobody told me at all.'

"Stanley said she 'would have been screaming and pleading on their doorstep if they had.'

" ' "Do it at night when bees are done foraging," I would have told them,' she added, breaking into tears. 'But they sprayed at 8 a.m. Sunday, and all of my bees were out, doing their work by then.' "

Dorchester County has apologized, the Post and Courier reports.

The county says on its website that no more aerial spraying is scheduled — and that if officials do spray again, they will send out notifications three to five days in advance and contact registered beekeepers by phone or email.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit

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