Bee die-off in its 10th day after farmer sprays pesticide

Bees continue to die in the millions after a farmer sprayed his crops with insecticide. Photo: Courtesy
Bees continue to die in the millions after a farmer sprayed his crops with insecticide. Photo: Courtesy

José María Morelos, Q. Roo — Ten days after a farmer sprayed his habanero crop with fipronil pesticide, bees are still dying, and within a growing radius.

Several beekeepers were depending on income from honey and beeswax production, and are out thousands of dollars as a result.

The toxin marketed under the brand Regent 4 SC, and which is banned in Europe, is connected with the death of between 14.6 million and 18.25 million bees in the municipality, said a scientist, Aurora Xolalpa Aroche.

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The toxin has extended its effects to San Felipe I, two kilometers northwest of the farm.

He explained that the new affected site is almost four kilometers from the Candelaria ejido, where the die-off began.

Bees that were not killed by the spray are in failing health, he said, with an uncertain prognosis. “We must wait and see if they resist,” he said.

The beekeepers tried to file a complaint with the Public Prosecutor’s Office in José María Morelos, but the authorities initially denied them on three grounds: that the institution lacks competence to intervene in the killing of wildlife; that killing of bees is not a crime and that the owner fumigated his land and there was no crime.

But the state penal code has a chapter that deals with crimes related to beekeeping and in article 147, section II, covers anyone who “destroys hives, honey, bees, honeycombs and apicultural products.”

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For now, the group of beekeepers is working with authorities to thoroughly investigate what happened, avoid repetition of the disaster, and to receive compensation.

Where this pesticide is legal, it is strictly controlled.

Fipronil is a broad-spectrum insecticide, also marketed under the trade names Goliath and Nexa. In the U.S., it is employed for cockroach and ant control, and also used against pests in cornfields, golf courses, and commercial lawn care under the trade name Chipco Choice.

The toxin is at the center of a scandal in 2017, when thousands of eggs were found contaminated in Europe and South Korea.

Fipronil is notoriously harmful to bees and other pollinators. Greenpeace has been actively pushing for a phase-out of fipronil as part of its “Save the Bees” campaign. In 2013, the European Commission strongly restricted the use of fipronil in agriculture.

Source: La Jornada Maya, Greenpeace

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