Zika-fighting Efforts Won't Harm Bees, Local Officials Say

WASHINGTON — Local officials working to keep mosquito populations in check in the fight against the Zika virus say the massive bee kill that occurred in South Carolina earlier this month could not happen in the D.C. region.

The South Carolina bee kill involved early morning spraying of the chemical Naled, which is highly toxic to bees. Millions of honey bees accidentally were killed during aerial spraying there.

“There are some differences between what we do and what happened in South Carolina,” said Brian Prendergast, who is the program director for mosquito control at the Maryland Department of Agriculture. “We use a chemical called permethrin.”

Permethrin is the chemical the U.S. military uses to treat uniforms. Prendergast said there are decades of large sample data suggesting its safe, in addition to other official rulings.

“The CDC has determined that this pesticide, if it’s used according to the label — and we always us it according to the label — presents no unreasonable expectation of harm,” Prendergast said.

Also, truck-mounted spraying in Maryland only happens at night when bees aren’t active, Prendergast said. The equipment is calibrated to make droplets of insecticide mist so small they don’t stick to surfaces bees might crawl on later when they are active.

Virginia also is among states with aggressive action plans to prevent the spread of disease by controlling mosquito populations. But there are no plans for aerial spraying related to the Zika virus, according to Dr. Laurie Forlano, an epidemiologist with the Virginia Department of Health.

“But if local Zika transmission occurred in any part of Virginia, enhanced mosquito surveillance would be conducted to gather more information about the mosquito population and the effectiveness of control measures,” Forlano said.

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