This Sunday, residents of South Carolina’s Dorchester County began discovering an alarming amount of dead bees, the apparent result of a mosquito-fogging effort that was not properly communicated to area beekeepers. According to The Washington Post, Dorchester County officials were acting in response to a small number of travel-related Zika infections in South Carolina.
To illustrate the extent of the bee deaths, both the Post and the Charleston Post & Courier spoke with Juanita Stanley, the co-owner of Flowertown Bee Farm and Supply, who said that the spraying, carried out by small planes, left her business looking “like it’s been nuked.” Stanley estimates more than 2.3 million bees have been killed at Flowertown alone.
On Tuesday, County Administrator Jason Ward acknowledged the deaths. “Dorchester County is aware that some beekeepers in the area that was sprayed on Sunday lost their beehives,” he said in a press release.
Last week, “four travel-related cases of the Zika virus were confirmed in the Summerville area,” as per the Post & Courier. On Friday, the county announced plans to spray for mosquitos by air on Sunday, between 6:30 and 8:30 a.m.
According to Ward, the county would typically spray for mosquitos from a truck between the hours of 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. on weekdays. “We usually call registered beekeepers prior to spraying in their zone,” he said. Unfortunately, the last-minute update was missed by many beekeepers.
“Had I known, I would have been camping on the steps doing whatever I had to do screaming, ‘No you can’t do this,’” beekeeper Juanita Stanley told WCSC-TV. Another beekeeper, Juanita Stanley, told the Post & Courier, “My bee yard looks like it’s been nuked.” She went on, “it’s not about the honey. It’s about saving the bees. Because of my mission with my business, this is so much more devastating. I am trying to do the opposite of what just happened. They are in a sanctuary where I can protect them, and now they are destroyed.”
The Center for Disease control argued in January for this method of spraying to be used in Puerto Rico in an attempt to curb the spread of the virus.