Beekeepers seek answers as thousands of bees die in Lee County
LEE COUNTY, Fla. – Backyard beekeepers are searching for the cause of thousands of their bee deaths in the past two weeks.
Ashley More, of Alva, has been a backyard beekeeper for the past two years. She was doing her morning rash check routine when she noticed a problem in mid-December.
“I found two hives that weren’t as busy as they should be,” says More. “I saw bees moving erratically, falling, tipping over.”
She quickly called her mentor and Southwest Florida Beekeeping Association President Dennis Riggs.
He said the bees appear to have damaged their nervous systems.
“They’re spinning around on their backs, and they’re convulsing,” says Riggs.
He called the state inspector, who said the bees appeared to be poisoned. According to Riggs, many are not the only beekeepers in the Alva region with the majority of beehives dying recently around Christmas.
“The next day, when another beekeeper came home from his vacation, all three of his hives died of similar symptoms,” says Riggs. “We’re talking about 60,000 times 3 dead beehives that he went home.”
Others in that area also reported similar hive mortality rates. Beekeepers say although they believe the hive was poisoned in some way, they do not believe it was intentional.
They said pesticides sprayed on a nearby orangery could have been the cause, or it could have been caused by a neighbor spraying fruit and vegetables in their nearby yard.
With bees often feeding out of their nests in dumps and landfills, Riggs warns anyone using pesticides to be mindful of what they’re using and when.
He said: “Warning people to be careful with spraying in gardens, using insecticides, especially using insecticides contrary to what the label says.”
Dead bees can have a negative impact on farmers because fewer bees mean less pollination for crops, which can cost your food if the problem continues.
If you’re a beekeeper and see hives dying, leave them intact so investigators can find the root cause of the dead hive and what specific pesticides were used, says Riggs. Used to accidentally kill bees.
They plan to discuss the matter further with a state inspector and other beekeepers around southwest Florida at a meeting this coming January.