Florida Keys

Mosquito spraying in Keys deadly for bees

Hundreds of bees died on Grassy Key after an aerial adulticiding spray from the Florida Keys Mosquito Control.
Hundreds of bees died on Grassy Key after an aerial adulticiding spray from the Florida Keys Mosquito Control. Marlissa Garrett via KeysInfoNet

The Florida Keys Mosquito Control District is efficient at killing, as beekeeper Marlisa Garrett has discovered.

Garrett, who lives on Grassy Key and started cultivated bees two weeks, woke up on Thursday to at least 200 dead honey bees around Guava Avenue and Ferriere Street. She keeps four colonies and said the bees died after the agency did an aerial adulticiding spray that morning via helicopter.

“We wanted to have bees for a long time. We have fruit trees and flowers in our yard. Having those bees right here is fun,” Garrett said.

Mosquito Control spokeswoman Beth Ranson confirmed that aerial adulticiding, which includes the insecticide dibrom, does kill bees. Ranson said Mosquito Control is trying to use more aerial larviciding since those chemicals only affect black fly and mosquito larvae.

Adulticide kills adult insects, including mosquitoes and bees.

“In Grassy Key, we’ve done 33 aerial larvicide treatments versus two aerial adulticide treatments since Jan. 1,” Ranson said. “If you have bees, please let us know. We can call the day before and alert anyone who’s on our bee keeper list.”

According to the Pollinator Stewardship Council, bees can be protected by moving colonies or have their hives “loosely covered with burlap or coarse cloth to confine the bees and yet allow them to cluster outside the hive under the cloth. Repeated sprinkling each hour with water prevents overheating. Never screen or seal up colonies and do not cover with plastic sheeting. This can result in overheating, leading to bee suffocation and death.”

David Lewis, owner of Florida Keys Honey and Bees in Big Pine, said sheltering bees from Mosquito Control’s spray is an exercise in futility.

“It’s definitely having an impact on the bees, but there’s not much you can do to save them,” said Lewis, who’s been working with bees in the Keys for nearly a decade.

According to Lewis, it takes 28 days for a bee to develop from larva to adult. Larger colonies with 50,000 or so bees are more likely to recover versus smaller colonies, which cannot afford to lose pollinating and water-gathering adults.

The Pollinator Stewardship Council reminds bee keepers that state law states bee yards have to be plainly marked with the owner’s name, address and telephone number.

The large-scale deaths of bees — known as colony collapse disorder — in the past few years has made headlines across the world. According the U.S. Department of Agriculture, beekeepers lost 42 percent of their colonies between April 2014 to April 2015. That’s up from 34.2 percent from April 2013 to April 2014.

Lewis said the Keys are an ideal area to raise bees since, outside of the aerial spraying, the environment is very clean.

“Bees are essential. They pollinate and pick up dust and pollution,” Lewis said. “If you want to have a colony, educate yourself and really do your research. If you’re not going to take care of them, don’t get them.”

Beekeepers can contact Mosquito Control at 305-292-7190 or email the district at keysmosquito.org/contact-us. To date, 24 beekeepers are in Mosquito Control’s database.