How Zika Complicated My Beekeeping

My article on Zika and Bee Kills in Bee Culture

Every time a news story covers the Zika, West Nile or some other mosquito-borne virus in the US, phones start ringing at pest and mosquito control companies. In the mind of most homeowners, calling a mosquito control company is the most rational response. A panel truck shows up – at any hour of the 9-5 work day – and workers starts fogging the yard with pyrethrins. If the company is lucky, they will sign a recurring contract that guarantees multiple visits.

Pyrethrins are relatively safe to vertebrates but deadly to invertebrates such as honey bees, native pollinators, aquatic life, and dragonflies (that eat both mosquito larvae and mosquitoes). A cloud of pyrethrins can drift into an apiary or – if sprayed on flowers – toxic nectar and pollen can be carried back to the hive.

That is exactly what happened to me in 2016. It was devastating. I am sure the loss causes some to quit beekeeping altogether. Imaging finding your beloved cat or dog or concubine healthy one day and dead the next from poisoning. I would not wish this on anybody.  But I have heard stories from others. It is not always the mosquito control companies – sometimes it is the county roads department.

So I did what any other red-blooded American beekeeper would do. I waged a one person war on mindless, senseless, uninformed, scorched earth fogging of all insects.

The first thing I did was to assembled a care package to my neighbors. Zika and the mosquitoes the virus are real. No backing away from that fact. But there are better ways to deal with mosquitoes. So I assembled a care package (in a nifty bag) with the following items and gave one to each of my neighbors:

Next, I offered to create an informative bee kill

web page for my club. When I lost 3 hives to a pesticide spray, I was shocked to learn that there is very  little information on how to respond to a bee kill.

Next, I wrote an article that was just published in the August 2017 issue of Bee Culture magazine. You can read it here.

Finally, I will be speaking in Fall 2017 at the Georgia State Beekeeping conference on How to Keep Your Neighbors from Killing Your Bees (I did not come up with that title).

Have I won the war?  No, far from it. I need you to join me in this fight. Either you become a more informed etymologist and skilled communicator and give your neighbors good reason not to fog…or you abdicate the battle to the commercial mosquito control companies. Your bees will be the ultimate losers.

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