Published on 8/18/2009
By Tommy Howard
Christmas may not be the same for Jimmy Hills and his friends this year, following a recent episode with mosquito spraying.
Hills lives in Georgetown and has land in the country. In both places, he has bee hives and the honey that is collected graces the breakfast tables of friends and acquaintances.
Because about half the honey bees were killed when Georgetown County Mosquito Control's contract aerial sprayer went over the city Historic District while the bees were out, his hive may not make it through the winter.
Hills said he's asked repeatedly that he be notified when spraying will be done, so he can take steps to protect the bees.
Or, he says, the spraying could be done at night when the bees are inside the hives and safe from the Malathion the county uses for mosquito control.
Beekeepers to be notified
Ray Funnye, director of Public Services for Georgetown County, said that Mosquito Control services does have a policy to notify beekeepers before spraying.
On Tuesday, when asked by the Georgetown Times about the recent incident, Funnye said he would contact Hills.
"Normally, we do notify beekeepers of our intentions" to spray, Funnye said.
He noted that higher winds than normal sometimes require spraying to be postponed. He planned to find out if that happened in this situation.
Wild bees affected
Hills should know what he's talking about, since he and his business partner Henry Moore used to provide mosquito control for Seabrook Island and sometimes Kiawah Island, below Charleston.
And, it's not just a few small jars of honey that he gives away for Christmas presents that concerns him.
Bees are one of the primary pollinators for flowers, vegetables, cotton, soy beans and many other plants essential to life.
Hills said Paul Crooks is a beekeeper who works with him and his bees.
"He's said the old live oaks are jam full of bees." The same is true at Arundel and other plantations throughout the county, Hills said.
"All of those bees are an integral part of pollination for gardens in our backyard and the things we grow."
Aerial spraying kills hundreds of bees
On Friday morning, Aug. 7, Hills wrote in an e-mail to Tim Chatman, a plane sprayed over his house around 6:30 a.m.
Just an hour later, Hills said, many bees were dead. He provided pictures to Chatman, the county's mosquito control supervisor, and to the Georgetown Times.
The bees emerge from the hive at daylight, stay out gathering nectar and pollinating flowers and vegetables, and return to the hive at dark.
"Your spraying during the active period and the residual that follows that day devastates the bees," Hills wrote to Chatman.
"Georgetown has hundreds and hundreds of wild bee hives that chiefly reside in the hollows of the many old oak and other trees in our city."
Hills said he's provided Chatman with studies in the past where commercial pilots use GPS and radar. They're able to take off and land at night, spray for mosquitoes safely and effectively, and not harm the bees.
Likewise, Hills said, truck-mounted spraying could be done at night.
On Monday, Aug. 10, Hills followed up with Chatman showing photos of dead bees all over his yard.
"My neighbor asked me what was wrong with the bees as they are dead all over his patio," Hills said.
"Why can't you devise a plan that kills mosquitoes and not honeybees?" Hills asked.
"You are spraying when people are gettting out, up and active. This unnecessarily exposes people to undue pesticide exposure," Hills said.
Later, he told the Times, Chatman responded by saying he would look into adjusting the spraying schedule.
"Nobody wants to jeopardize public safety or mosquito control," Hills said, "but it can be done effectively to spray at times when the bees are not active."
For information on the county's mosquito control operations, visit the web site:
You may also request the spraying of an area for mosquitoes by calling (843) 545-3615. Leave your name, address, and telephone number.
David Green, retired editor of the Hemingway Weekly Observer, has a Web site with a lot of information on bees and plant pollination: http://pollinator.com/.
As vital as honeybees and other types are to our well being and survival it is sad to see this happen. We tend to not consider long term consequences to our short term fixes. As much as I dislike being bitten by mosquitoes I would much rather loose a pint of blood than to be subjected to a dosing of malathion. I do regret that this happened Mr. Hills. Butterflies bumble bees and the likes have dwindled in numbers over the past 6 years that I have had the pleasure to work in the Historic District and now I know why.... If you cannot take the mosquitoes then for goodness sake buy a can of Off or an all natural repellent and let the beneficial insects live.......
Posted by Lee Padgett on 8/19/2009
This department is a joke. Just look at the leader, Ray Funney. The only policy that I can think Ray understands is how to fire an employee that got hurt on the job thanks to another supervisor that is mention. Jimmy, Ray will not put a policy in place to save your bees. He could care less and call Tim Chatman is a waist of your time. He does only what Ray tells him. A simple phone call to the bee keepers in the county is too hard. I say we need a purge in the county and city government, let us have a say and quit letting the officials get away with everything.
Posted by baitbucket on 8/19/2009