Fact Check

Zika Spraying Killed Millions of Bees in South Carolina

A government effort to control the spread of the Zika virus via aerial insecticide spray killed of millions of bees in Dorchester County, South Carolina.

Published Sept. 2, 2016

 (PollyDot, creative commons)
Image Via PollyDot, creative commons
Aerial spraying of an insecticide targeting Zika-carrying mosquitoes in South Carolina resulted in the deaths of millions of bees.

Officials in Dorchester County, South Carolina have issued an apology for aerial insecticide spraying that inadvertently killed millions of honeybees in the area, WCBD-TV reported on 1 September 2016. Beekeepers in the town of Summerville say they lost scores of active hives almost instantly after spraying began early in the morning on 28 August.

The insecticide, naled (brand name Trumpet), is recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency for the control of the mosquito species Aedes aegypti, which carries the Zika virus. The insecticide is also highly toxic to bees. Administrators in Dorchester County (where there have been four confirmed diagnoses of Zika infection to date) said they followed guidelines for its proper use, including spraying before dawn to reduce exposure of the bee population and notifying local residents in advance.

Locals say they weren't notified in advance of the aerial spraying, however. Beekeeper Juanita Stanley told reporters:

That's true when they sprayed by trucks. But nobody called me about the aerial spraying; nobody told me at all.

Stanley estimates she lost more than 3 million bees, and says she'll have to destroy the contaminated honey and equipment and start over.

Researchers at Clemson University took honey and soil samples from Stanley's farm for further analysis.


LaMotte, Sandee.  "Zika Spraying Kills Millions of Honeybees."    CNN.  2 September 2016.

WCBD-TV.  "Millions of Bees Killed in Summerville."    1 September 2016.

David Emery is a West Coast-based writer and editor with 25 years of experience fact-checking rumors, hoaxes, and contemporary legends.