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Buzzkill? Beekeepers worried EEE spraying will harm bees in Indiana, Michigan

WSBT 22 file photo
WSBT 22 file photo
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Tens of thousands of beehives could be impacted by the spraying for mosquitoes taking place tonight.

Area beekeepers are concerned about their beehives in Michigan and Elkhart County. Many are concerned these sprays could potentially harm the honeybees.

The chemical being used in Michigan and Elkhart County are different pesticides, but they both do the same thing: kill mosquitoes that could potentially be carrying the deadly Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) virus.

But if bees are flying in the area at the time the spraying occurs, it could kill both bees and mosquitoes.

“I talked to a bee keeper this morning, who already has been to several hives collecting honey, and he’s found two hives dead,” James Kendall, owner of the Green Bee Farm. “The bees are not in the hive, there is nothing in the hive at all -- it’s totally empty.”

So as Elkhart County and areas of Michigan continue to spray large areas with pesticides this evening, local beekeepers are worried.

“But there’s a lot of people with a lot of bee hives that can’t move them just overnight,” said Kendall. “So they need a good warning, two to three weeks ahead of time, so that they can get out and get their bees moved or covered and ready for this.”

In Michigan, tens of thousands of hives could be impacted. Even if bees don’t fly around at night time, that doesn’t mean the pesticide won’t impact their colony.

“We don’t have a good sense on how much can be drawn into the hives, because the bees do create airflow in the colonies at night,” said Meghan Milbrath. “And we don’t know how much will be deposited on the flowers that the bees will visit the next day.”

Milbrath says there needs to be more communication with bee farmers in Michigan.

“They are being told they need 48 hours to be put on the opt-out list, but a lot of times beekeepers didn’t find out about the sprays until less than 48 hours,” said Milbrath.

Milbrath says we won’t know the full impact until a few days after spraying is complete.

“Sometimes a highly toxic pesticide can kill a colony outright,” said Milbrath. “Other times it can actually just weaken the colony.”

Kendall says his bee hives are more than six miles away from the spray site and should be fine -- but he’s concerned for other hive owners, and for the population in general.

“Without honeybees, we are going to be very hungry, because bees pollinate 80 percent of all of the food that we eat,” said Kendall. “So, therefore, without the honey bee, man is going to disappear from Earth too.”

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So what will the impact of spraying be on area hives? Officials say we'll have a better idea next week when bee farmers have been able to check on their colonies.

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