It’s not much of a stretch to say that honeybees are essential to our survival. While some scientists say wild bees could do the job of pollinating our fruits, vegetables and flowers, the U.S. agriculture industry has come to depend on honeybees, which are rented out to farmers eager for some certainty in their production cycle. But honeybees are becoming increasingly endangered, with managed colonies losing more than a third of their population in the past year alone.
There are a lot of reasons for the declining population, but one of them is pesticides. So you’d think that when local beekeepers ask their government for advance notice before that government sends out trucks to spray chemicals that kill honeybees as well as the mosquitoes they’re targeting, the government would be happy to comply.
Particularly when that same government launched an aerial program three years ago that was so fatal to bees that it made national news, outraged conservationists and spurred a lawsuit from hive keepers whose colonies were wiped out as a result of that poorly publicized spray.
But for reasons that we cannot fathom, the Dorchester County Council recently voted to stop giving beekeepers the heads-up they need when mosquito-spraying trucks will be in their areas, which allows them to cover their bees until the danger passes. Instead, the county will merely post its two-week spraying schedules, which are subject to change.
Dorchester County officials will no longer call beekeepers to alert them when truck spraying is scheduled. The notifications for more than 130 beekeepers about their more than a million bees are scheduled to stop Monday.
A county spokeswoman told The Post and Courier’s Bo Petersen she couldn’t comment on the change because of those pending lawsuits, but there was some suggestion that it was too costly or time-consuming to continue making individual phone calls to the county’s 130 beekeepers. Which is absurd.
We’re confident that the beekeepers or the Coastal Conservation League, which has taken up their cause, would gladly help the county set up an automated email or text program that could send out notices to the beekeepers. It’s not exactly a difficult or costly undertaking.
We understand that it can be difficult for local government to balance the need to protect bees against the need to protect the human population from disease-carrying mosquitoes. But this isn’t about spraying or not spraying. It’s about notifying beekeepers or not notifying them.
After a pesticide spray in 2016 killed millions of bees in Dorchester County, Charleston-area health officials are communicating more with beekeepers.
S.C. law only requires governments to post notice of pesticide spraying, but apparently most local governments have done more than the minimum. Charleston County, for example, uses an automated program to contact beekeepers before spraying. But it seems that Dorchester County officials considered that too much work.
The County Council needs to reverse its ill-considered decision and resume the phone call alerts immediately, while it works out an automated system. And it wouldn’t hurt for the Legislature to consider ways to prevent any other local governments from launching an all-out assault on honeybees.