A few weeks ago, officials of Dorchester County, South Carolina took preemptive measures to ward off the Zika virus with an aerial spraying of the pesticide naled. Naled is specifically used for mosquito control, but when applied at the wrong time, it can be detrimental to other insects - including honeybees. Unfortunately, the beekeepers of Dorchester County woke up to find hives destroyed, and millions of honeybees dead.
Why does this matter?
Aside from the fact that these apiaries are now facing huge setbacks, South Carolina just lost a few million of its pollinators. Unfortunately, the term “pollinator” is not even mentioned until the last few sentences of the article, but it is this function of bees – pollination – that makes them crucial players within our food system.
Bees alone pollinate one-third of our global food crops.
It is hard to make people, especially children, realize the significance of that percentage, especially when bees are associated with pain or danger. For instance, it’s safe to say that at some point in our childhood (and probably adulthood), we have all stood fearful and frozen, waiting to see if the bee that is circling us will attack. In reality, bees will usually only sting unless threatened, and honeybees can actually die after they sting a human. Despite whatever personal grudges an individual might have towards bees, these creatures are not interested in attacking humans; they are interested in doing their job to support the hive.
With panic over the Zika virus increasing, this may not be the last mass casualty of honeybees that we see, making now, more than ever, an important time to become an advocate for these essential pollinators.