Cape commercial bee farmers experienced a devastating revenue loss after thousands of bees were infected by a poison that left their hives ravaged. Many farmers initially did not know the cause, but tests carried out on bee samples revealed ant pesticides, lethally poisonous to bees, to be the culprit.
The bees were found dead right outside their hives and farmers suspected that the cause was pesticides used in nearby farmers, and after testing samples taken from some of the infected bees, their suspicions were confirmed.
Fipronil, a broad-use insecticide discovered in the infected bee samples, interferes with the insects’ central nervous systems and causes hyperexcitation of their nerves and muscles, resulting in death.
“I inspected about 150 hives on Thursday and about 40% of the hives have masses of dead bees in front of them,” the vice-chairperson of the Western Cape Bee Industry Association (WCBA) told IOL.
The local wine farming community immediately stopped using pesticides once the deaths started, but most of the damage had already been done.
Bees are a huge part of the Western Cape’s eco-system, and bee farmers were especially disgruntled by this occurrence because the bee population had just started to recover well from the effects of the drought.
Farmers in the Constantia area are greatly concerned by the event and are striving to ensure nothing like this ever happens again.
Beekeepers and wine farm owners reportedly held a meeting last week to discuss ways forward and agreed to work together in future along with the government to use non-poisonous pesticides.