Four hundred beehives were lost by one beekeeper in Florida. Several others have lost not just beehives, but whole colonies. The total number of bees lost is in the millions – up to twelve million by one estimate. No one knows exactly what caused the sudden loss, but an investigation is currently underway and is focused on pesticides. Nearly all the bees died in one day, a fact which leads investigators to believe pesticides were applied to the hives, because bee diseases usually don’t strike so quickly.
Brevard County, where the colonies were lost, was also sprayed one night by helicopter for mosquito control, but only at a time when the bees would all have been inside their hives. The poison in the mosquito spray is said to only be active for thirty minutes. Colony Collapse Disorder was ruled out because it causes worker bees to leave the colony and they never return. In the Florida case millions of worker bees were found dead outside the hives.
One of the beekeepers said he lost about $150,000 in bees to whatever killed them. He was working in construction, but the economic downturn forced him back into beekeeping. He invested heavily in bee colonies, so this incident was a major blow to his economic hopes. However, he has said he won’t give up, even though there won’t be compensation. In 2010 Forbes magazine ranked Brevard County as the worst place in the country to find a job. Discontinuation of the space shuttle and other program at NASA/Kennedy Space Center was expected to cause the loss of 9,000 jobs.
Local agriculture is focused on citrus, cattle and horses. When more bees are present, plants grow better. For example, bees can help avocado trees produce about 25% more avocados. In other words, the loss of bees is tragic, but their positive impact on local plants will also be missed, until the hives can be re-grown.
If you know anything about this case, contact the Brevard County Sheriff’s office.
Image Credit: Jon Sullivan