Beekeepers have been swarming with concern since learning about the deaths of millions of bees from an anti-Zika virus mosquito spraying project in Dorchester County last week, said Easley beekeeper Dwight Porter.
Porter, vice president of the South Carolina Beekeepers Association, keeps about 45 colonies in Easley and came to an Anderson County forum Tuesday that was aimed at connecting local governments, mosquito control experts and beekeepers.
There have been serious communication problems between all the people involved, said Jennifer Tsuruda, a Clemson University bee specialist.
As others continue to investigate the Dorchester County bee kill, Tsuruda said it is important for beekeepers to recognize that mosquito control is often necessary.
She said mosquito control workers are in a bind because they are responsible for public health but also can catch the wrath of beekeepers if the spraying kills too many other insects.
Porter said those are the twin concerns among beekeepers.
Beekeepers know public health comes first, Porter said, but they also know that a third of the nation's food supply is directly linked to pollinators including bees.
He said he left the forum knowing more about Zika and hoping that a Clemson University-based volunteer registry of hives will help prevent future accidental massacres of bees, especially in the Upstate.
The Summerville bees died after Dorchester County officials used a common mosquito control product called naled in an aerial spraying.
Most insecticides that can kill mosquitos can kill bees, along with other insects, said Timothy Drake, state programs manager of Clemson University’s Department of Pesticide Regulation.
The beekeepers at the Anderson County forum said they want to know about any spraying ahead of time so they can take steps to avoid their bees dying.
If they know of spraying ahead of time, beekeepers can feed the bees so they're more stationary, keep them under wet burlap or recommend that officials delay spraying to less-active hours.
County-level spraying requires 24 hour notice, the officials said.
But there are no state bee registries, Tsuruda said, which hurts not only efforts to notify beekeepers of spraying but also reduces their efficacy as a lobbying group.
Most of the intense anti-mosquito efforts in South Carolina are centered in the coastal parts. Greenville County is the only county in the Upstate to have a mosquito control effort above the minimal ranking, according to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Quality.
Spraying, especially intensive spraying like aerial efforts, is not the best way to eliminate mosquitoes, said Chris Evans, a state public health entomologist with the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control.
He, and other panelists, said the best, cheapest and easiest way is just tipping over or eliminating standing water sources like empty plant pots or used tires, so mosquitoes can’t breed in the stagnant water.
Evans said if more people walked their backyard and dumped standing water, there would be significantly less demand on governments to combat mosquitoes.
As concern over Zika continues to mount and tropical storms bring more standing water to the state and others, mosquito spraying will likely continue, officials said.
Anderson County Administrator Rusty Burns said his county has only sprayed in two locations, at the Civic Center of Anderson and at the county's Green Pond Landing boat launch. He said any spraying would include at least 24 hours’ notice on the county's website and through media including the Independent Mail.
To learn more about Zika virus and mosquito reduction steps, visit cdc.gov/Zika or http://www.scdhec.gov/HomeAndEnvironment/Insects/Mosquitoes