South Florida beekeepers concerned about effects of Zika spraying

(WSVN) - As the debate over Zika spraying on South Beach continues, further south in the county, beekeepers are getting nervous about how the spraying will affect their hives.

More than 2.5 million bees died on one farm in South Carolina after one spraying for mosquitoes. Naled, the same chemical being used to kill mosquitoes in Zika-affected areas in South Florida, was sprayed on the hives.

And that chemical is killing bees in South Florida, in Wynwood and here in South Beach. Everywhere they are spraying it for mosquitoes.

Sadie Kaplan: “When we parked the car and I got out of the car, all I see is these things moving everywhere, and I looked down and they were all bees.”

Sadie Kaplan shot video of over two dozen bees dead or dying in her South Beach parking lot.

Sadie Kaplan: “I was just really bothered. They say this stuff is safe, it should be OK. It shouldn’t harm anything but the mosquitoes.”

She is so afraid of the chemicals being sprayed over her apartment, she leaves town when they spray.

But bees don’t have that option.

Lee Del Signore, beekeeper: “When the bees get sprayed, they go into convulsions. They crawl out of the hives and lay down on the ground and their legs go up like that.”

Lee’s been tending beehives in South Florida for half his life. Most of his hives are in Homestead and the Redlands.

He is scared to death of what could happen if the Zika spraying moves south.

Lee Del Signore: “It’s not good for the bees because that mass spray is like a fog. It falls down to the ground like a fog. And whatever it contacts, it’s going to die.”

And that could cost Florida beekeepers big money. Over 13 million pounds of honey are produced every year, with a dollar value of more than $27 million.

Much of that comes from South Florida. But Lee says it wouldn’t take much to wipe out his hives.

Lee Del Signore: “It don’t take much to kill bees. They are fragile. I’m concerned all the time.”

Beekeepers say they are notified by the county officials when there will be spraying.

Lee Del Signore: “They can inform you, but it’s a lot of work to be moving bees somewhere because I’ve got bees all over the place. I mean, if they give you 24 hours or a couple of days, what am I going to do? Move all of my bees out of the spray area or try to cover them up?”

And as Zika infections continue across the state, beekeepers say the spraying to kill mosquitoes could put our food in jeopardy.

Lee Del Signore: “Bees are responsible for every three spoons or forks of food we put in our mouth. They turn flowers into fruit and vegetables. We can’t do that.”

Which is why they hope government leaders find a safer way to control the spread of Zika.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Del Signore Apiaries: 305-248-2248

So far, a total of 71 locally transmitted cases of the Zika virus have been discovered in Florida, according to the CDC.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott announced the latest Zika zone, a 1.5 square mile area in Miami Beach, on Aug. 19. The first U.S. hot zone for locally transmitted cases of Zika was identified in the Wynwood neighborhood of Miami, in late July.

The mosquito-borne illness is especially dangerous for pregnant women and has been linked to serious birth defects. The CDC has issued a travel advisory for pregnant women to avoid the Zika hot Zones in Miami-Dade County.

If a mosquito carrying Zika does bite, it can take up to two weeks to cause symptoms like:

  • fever
  • headache
  • skin rash
  • joint pain
  • conjunctivitis, which causes red, irritated eyes

The State Surgeon General has activated a 24-hour Zika hotline in Florida to answer questions and concerns. That number is 855-622-6735.

Pregnant women can receive a free test at the Health District Center, located at 1350 NW 14th St. in Miami. For more information, call (305)-324-2400.

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