Thousands of honeybees were killed when authorities in Summerville, North Caroline sprayed insecticide on a Sunday morning to kill Aedes Aegypti mosquitoes. This mosquito species is the one that is responsible for transmitting the Zika virus.
The Zika virus has been responsible for some minor ailments in many people, but is very dangerous for pregnant or soon to be pregnant women. The children of women infected by Zika during pregnancy have suffered from unusually small head, known as microencephaly. In addition, the babies have suffered from delayed development and in some cases, death. There is no effective treatment for the babies who have been born to mothers infected by the Zika virus.
The only way to prevent the disease when pregnant is to stay indoors, cover the body with clothing, use mosquito nets and insect sprays on exposed body parts and avoid standing water which are breeding grounds for mosquitoes.
The Zika virus was first discovered in Brazil and became an issue for pregnant women there. Since the summer Olympics were being held there, it became a growing concern for women internationally. The problem is the Zika carrying mosquito, A. Aegypti, has been moving north. Now it is in the southern United States and public health officials in these areas are becoming increasingly alarmed.
Spraying to eradicate the mosquito is certainly a way to decrease the spread of Zika. Recently, it’s been discovered to be transmitted sexually as well. However, spraying to kill mosquitoes will prevent transmission no matter how it may occur because the mosquito is the initial vector, or carrier, of the virus.
This was the plan in Summerville early on a Sunday morning, yet in addition to killing the dreaded mosquito species, millions of honeybees were also killed. Beekeepers in the area are devastated and distressed at the loss of their beloved bees and makers of delicious local honey. Many raised the bees to produce honey for sale at local fairs and small markets. It was their livelihood and sole source of income. Some enjoy beekeeping as a hobby. In both instances owners were saddened and insisted no warning of the spraying was given. Many were upset that aerial spraying of any type was performed while parents had sent their children and pets out to play.
However, local counties in North Carolina said residents were given fair warning on their website two days prior to the Sunday morning spraying between the hours of 6:30 a.m. and 8:00 a.m. Four local residents were diagnosed with Zika in Dorchester County, so the health officials felt that the spraying of Trumpet insecticide, whose active ingredient is naled, was justified. The officials say they did notify beekeepers by phone or email who were on the mosquito registry, a registry for beekeepers to join for just this type of happening. Some of the beekeepers who lost their bees as a result admitted to not being on the registry as they were hobbyists rather than professionals. This was how beekeepers were notified in the past when truck spraying for mosquitoes was done.
Officials are saddened by the loss of the bees, but are encouraging more beekeepers to join the mosquito registry. They also will allow a 5 day warning rather than the recent 2 day in an effort for beekeepers to better prepare.