Bee­keep­ers un­cover mass killing

Thou­sands of bees in Con­stan­tia ‘poi­soned’

Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition) - - METRO - LUKE FOLB | [email protected]

CAPE bee­keep­ers have an an­swer to what killed thou­sands of bees in Con­stan­tia leav­ing the lo­cal in­dus­try dev­as­tated after mas­sive rev­enue losses.

Last week, Week­end Ar­gus re­ported that bee­keep­ers sus­pected wine farms in the area were spray­ing their vine­yards with a pes­ti­cide con­sist­ing of a mix­ture of ant poi­son and mo­lasses.

Vice-chair­per­son of Western Cape Bee In­dus­try As­so­ci­a­tion (WCBA) and com­mer­cial bee farmer Bren­dan Ash­ley-Cooper said at the time he lost 100 hives and sent a sam­ple to be tested in the Hear­shaw & Kinnes An­a­lyt­i­cal Lab­o­ra­tory in Cape Town.

This week, Ash­ley-Cooper re­ceived the sam­ple back con­firm­ing his fears.

“We got it and it was fipronil that was the main in­gre­di­ent in my sam­ple, which is a pes­ti­cide used on ants.

“The wine farm­ers are very con­cerned them­selves and we are all open to look­ing for so­lu­tions,” he said.

He said, “it was ac­ci­den­tal and there are still some anom­alies in the sam­ple that we are try­ing to work out”.

“I in­spected about 150 hives on Thurs­day and about 40% of the hives have masses of dead bees in front of them.” Once the wine farms in the area dis­cov­ered the mass killing of the bees, use of the pes­ti­cide was stopped im­me­di­ately.

Fipronil dis­rupts the in­sects cen­tral ner­vous sys­tem and causes hy­per­ex­ci­ta­tion of the con­tam­i­nated in­sects’ nerves and mus­cles thus killing them.

On Fri­day bee­keep­ers and wine farm own­ers held a meet­ing to dis­cuss ways for­ward and agreed to co-op­er­ate in fu­ture, with each other and the govern­ment about us­ing the cor­rect pes­ti­cides.

Bee­keeper Lawrence Wool­lam lost be­tween 90% and 100% of his bees, which se­verely af­fected his busi­ness.

“We only pro­duce be­tween 300kg and 600kg each year and last year we pro­duced 350kg due to the drought.

“The bees have been look­ing so good this year fol­low­ing the drought and had no real dis­eases,” he said.

Owner of Buiten­verwacht­ing wine farm Lars Maack said wine farms in Con­stan­tia were “very con­cerned” about the dy­ing bees.

“What is puz­zling is that the cur­rent ant con­trol pro­grammes were in place for the past eight years with no sig­nif­i­cant ef­fect on bee­hives.

“Many hives on the farms and wild hives in the oak trees are com­pletely un­af­fected, while one bee­keeper re­ported larger die-off in ar­eas out­side of the val­ley,” he said.

Maack said every­one present at the meet­ing re­solved to col­late all in­for­ma­tion from farms and af­fected bee­hives and have an in-depth sci­en­tific ap­proach to find the root cause.

BEE­KEEP­ERS and wine farm own­ers are look­ing for so­lu­tions to pes­ti­cide use.

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