Project

Pesticides and Pollinators


In August 2016, Dorchester County Mosquito Control sprayed an adulticide over a 15-square mile area via an aerial application. This pesticide, commonly used to control for mosquitoes in the southeast, contains the chemical Naled — a serious threat to bees.

Flowertown Bee Farm and Supply, one of the largest apiaries in the county, was not notified prior to the spraying. They did not know to cover their hives or to alert the county as to the harm that would occur. As a result of the spraying, nearly 3 million of their honeybees were killed. The public was shocked as pictures of millions of dead bees appeared in local and national media outlets. Our environment cannot afford more mistakes like this.

Bees are responsible for pollinating one-third of our food supply, and they are a vital component of the rural economy as a result of honey production. Have you tasted Lowcountry honey? If you haven’t, you should!

Dorchester County has been working with the community and us to remedy their mistake, and while this was the County’s first aerial spray, it is not unique to our area and many others. The ramifications to pollinators are never positive. Local mosquito abatement programs can use EPA approved pesticides and application methods with little to no oversight or accountability. The incident in Dorchester just highlighted how much we don’t know about mosquito abatement and pesticide use.

The Conservation League is working with local governments, including Dorchester County, and experts to gather information and create better solutions that benefit humans, wildlife and the environment.

Bees (and all the other pollinators) are important!

  • One in three bites of food we eat is because of honeybees.
  • Pollinators contribute more than $24 billion to the United States economy. Of that, honeybees are responsible for more than $15 billion.
  • Almonds, among other crops, are almost entirely pollinated by honeybees.
  • The number of honeybees has steadily declined over the past several decades as these pollinators face a multitude of threats including but not limited to:
    • Loss of habitat
    • Pests and diseases
    • Lack of nutritional resources
    • Exposure to pesticides
    • And the mysterious phenomenon known as colony collapse disorder
  • Besides honeybees, other pollinators such as bumblebees and monarch butterflies are experiencing alarming threats and declines as well.

How Do We Regulate Pesticides?

Pesticide regulation can differ depending on where you live, but here’s how South Carolina does it:

  • The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) authorizes EPA to register pesticides.
    • Under FIFRA §26, a State shall have primary enforcement responsibilities for pesticide use violations if EPA determines that such State has adopted and is implementing adequate pesticide use laws and regulations, enforcement procedures, and recordkeeping and reporting requirements. Under FIFRA, States have broad authority to regulate pesticides; however, it is unlawful for States to impose or continue in effect any requirements for labeling or packaging in addition to or different from those required under FIFRA. For more information on this limitation, see 7 U.S.C. §136 v(b).
  • Clemson’s Department of Pesticide Regulation is charged with the task of regulating pesticides in the state under the SC Pesticide Control Act.
  • Jointly, the SC Department of Health and Environmental Control “works in partnership with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to monitor mosquito populations for diseases that can be spread to humans. The agency also provides information to help individuals and communities take action to reduce mosquito populations in their area and prevent bites.”
  • Certified private, commercial and noncommercial pesticide applicators registered under Clemson are tasked with the responsibility to carefully administer pesticides.
    • While private and commercial applicators typically abate for pests on smaller properties, noncommercial applicators, or governmental employees, are responsible for widespread pest abatement.
  • Most widespread mosquito control in SC is the responsibility of counties. Therefore, depending on a county’s funding and discretion, mosquito control programs can differ greatly depending on where you live. Check out your county government’s website and/or call to find out more information on mosquito control measures in your community. 

Mosquito Prevention:

  • Eliminate and Prevent Standing Water (at least once a week!)
    • Mosquitoes only need small amounts of standing water to lay their eggs.
    • Check for standing water around your home. The most common places to look include: Bird baths, pet bowls, potted plants, vases, old tires, swimming pools, boat tarps. This is the #1 most effective way to control for mosquitoes.
  • Use Biological Controls
    • Stock your backyard pond with mosquito-eating fish. These include Gambusia, minnows, bluegills, small goldfish, etc.
    • For areas of water that cannot be drained, you can purchase Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis (Bti) mosquito dunks, sold at lawn and garden stores.
    • Encourage other natural mosquito predators who can play their part, including birds, bats and frogs.
  • Maintain Your Home and Yard
    • Keep windows and doors closed.
    • Install or maintain screens where appropriate.
    • Buy and install bug lightbulbs that attract fewer mosquitoes.
    • Maintain yard shrubbery to eliminate dark, cool conditions for adult mosquitos.
  • Protect Yourself
    • Avoid being outside for long periods of time when mosquitoes are most active – dawn, dusk, twilight and night. Some may also be out in daylight, typically in shaded areas.
    • Wear light colored clothing, as mosquitoes are attracted to dark colors.
    • Cover up with long sleeved shirts and pants.
    • Steer clear of using scented products that commonly attract mosquitoes.
    • If necessary, use insect repellent RESPONSIBLY. Be sure to fully read labels and follow directions to avoid harm. Thoroughly wash treated areas of skin once you return indoors. Give a natural repellant a try!

You Can Stay Informed! Here are tips for:

Beekeepers:

  • Contact your county’s mosquito control program to register your hives and receive notifications prior to spraying. Here’s how to do that, depending on where you reside:
    • Charleston County Mosquito Control: Call (843) 202-7880
    • Berkeley County Mosquito Control: Call (843) 719-4646
    • Dorchester County Mosquito Control: Register here or call (843) 563-0218 or (843) 832-0218
  • Register your hives with Clemson’s Voluntary Beehive Mapping Program, where you can receive email notifications when pesticide applicators plan to spray within three miles of your hives.
  • Think about insuring your hives with the Farm Service Agency. In some cases, beekeepers can be reimbursed for losses. Learn more about this here.
  • Stay updated through your local beekeeping association’s Facebook page and through your county’s website and/or Facebook page, where they commonly post spray notifications.
  • How to Protect Your Beehives:
    • The best course of action is to move your apiary. However, we recognize that this can be extremely challenging or impossible. Here are some commonly used methods:
      • Cover your beehives with durable materials light in color to prevent heat buildup and pesticide exposure.
      • Provide water inside your hives and cover them with screens to restrict honeybee flight.
      • Cover colonies with large, wet burlap to combat both pesticide exposure and heat.
      • The use of misting wands over hives has also been an effective tool to prevent pesticide exposure.

Farmers:

  • The use of pesticides in mosquito control can seriously jeopardize organic certification or quality of product.
  • Contact your county’s mosquito control program to discuss alternatives to spraying directly on your crops:
    • Charleston County Mosquito Control: Call (843) 202-7880
    • Berkeley County Mosquito Control: Call (843) 719-4646
    • Dorchester County Mosquito Control: Call (843) 563-0218 or (843) 832-0218

 

For any concerned citizen, we urge you to contact your county’s mosquito control program to be placed on their notification list and find out more information. Or you can always call us here to talk about your options.


Emily Cedzo · emilyc@scccl.org · 843.723.8035

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