South Carolina county inadvertently kills thousands of honey bees

Pesticides targeting Zika-carrying mosquitoes have also taken a toll on bees.
(Image credit: Chris Hondros/Getty Images)

Bees have turned out to be an unexpected casualty in the fight against Zika virus. After Dorchester County, South Carolina, dispensed a pesticide by plane Sunday targeting potential Zika-carrying mosquitoes, honey bees started dropping dead by the thousands. At one bee farm in Summerville, South Carolina, 46 hives containing a total of about 2.5 million bees died almost immediately after the area was sprayed.

Upon investigation, officials concluded that what some beekeepers are calling a "mass killing" was caused by the insecticide intended for mosquitoes. While the county has sprayed the insecticide, Naled, by truck before, Sunday was the first time the county has dispensed the insecticide by airplane, prompted by the four Zika cases in the county.

County officials insist they gave residents plenty of heads up, but beekeepers say they did not have adequate notice to shield their hives from the insecticide, which is "highly toxic to bees," The Washington Post reported. "They passed right over the trees three times," said beekeeper Juanita Stanley, describing an eerie silence in the farm's usual buzzing after the plane had gone by. She added: "My bee yard looks like it's been nuked."

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