It all began when Bill, a club member with several hives 600 feet from the local school, learned that Zika inspired pesticide applications had occurred and would continue. It was little consolation to Bill that the fogging occurred when school was out, since Bill’s bees do not observe the school’s calendar.
The April club meeting was, as usual, well attended and our eyes swiveled to the young man (when you are 66 most look young), Max, who stood uncertainly at the front of the room while the introduction was made. He was the fogger man. He rattled off his pesticide credentials, his training in IPM (integrated pest management), his allergic child and therefore attuned sensitivity to toxins, and said he was there to reassure us that our bees would be ok.
When I was transferred from NYC to the south my then boss took me aside and said “this is how it is. In New York if we don’t like you we tell you to your face, where you are going they are always friendly and you will not be able to tell if they like you or not. Personally, I prefer the latter”. So I watched and listened to the cordial interactions between our members and Max. Hard to discern any animosity, and comments approaching a challenge were couched in gentle assurances would make a statesman proud.
Eventually I asked if these applications could be described as IPM since a tenet of IPM is you first identify the presence of a pest before you begin the treatment; furthermore even if there were Zika carrying mosquitoes frequenting the playgrounds surely when the fogging was done and the spray subsided (and incidentally all the bees in the area nailed), the next day a gust of wind could bring me more Zika carriers. Wouldn’t it be better to larvacide standing water in the area? This opened the floodgate and Max was questioned and acknowledged he had not monitored or identified any Zika mosquitoes prior to spraying; that mosquitoes can and will travel a good few miles in search of protein; and that his ‘cides were harmful to bees.
Our club leaders met with the county school officials, the local radio and TV stations joined the drumbeat and to the relief of our club, all spraying operations have been halted.
However if Zika concerns mount and a vaccination is not speedily developed fogging will increase and insects and bees decrease.
Talking of pests, here are two we found in our house. M. was not happy to see this fellow/gal under the dish washing liquid bottle:
And M. was upset (putting it lightly) to find this on our pillow:
To end on a positive note – I was very happy to spot this young king snake near my compost heap. In previous posts I mentioned how large king snakes >6 feet had vanquished rodents from our chicken coop. I haven’t seen any copperheads at my farm but they are around in our Atlanta subdivision and I attribute this to our Atlanta locals killing off the gentle king snakes, which snack in venomous snakes.