Honeybees among 'collateral damage' in West Nile spraying

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by JANET ST. JAMES

WFAA

Posted on August 8, 2012 at 5:27 PM

DALLAS -- Each day, Brandon Pollard ventures out to inspect what he calls "collateral damage" from the war on West Nile virus.

"We've been going around and checking our bees, making sure they have not been compromised from the spraying," Pollard said.

He's an urban beekeeper with the Texas Honeybee Guild. Pollard maintains dozens of hives across North Texas, in areas where fogging for disease-carrying mosquitoes has been most intense.

"We've lost thousands of bees," Pollard said.

Pesticides act like a deadly neurotoxin to bees. And, though bees stay in hives, chemicals can still seep in.

"What happens is, we have these little screen-bottom boards, and the chemicals get up in through the bottom of the boxes," Pollard said.

On hot nights, bees also hang out outside the hive.

Bee populations across the country are already on the decline. Pollard is concerned that as mosquito spraying becomes more aggressive, countless beneficial insects, including his precious pollinators, will also become accidental casualties.

"When you're trying to support this fragile natural resource that's already under siege, then this certainly adds insult to injury," he said.

Beekeeping organizations say hives should be covered on nights where there is spraying. But that's not always possible, as some hives are checked on a daily basis. Bees in covered hives can also suffocate. Natural hives have no keepers to offer protection.

Beekeepers and environmentalists want city and county health officials to consider this angle before they consider blanket mosquito spraying.

E-mail jstjames@wfaa.com

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