Well, it’s finally happened. I’ve had my beeyard sprayed with malathion!
June, the owner of the ranch I recently moved my bees on, contacted me this morning in tears. She told me that at about 6:30pm, a spray plane flew over a portion of their ranch and sprayed malathion. Unfortunately, my beeyard was directly under the plane’s nozzles. Direct hit!
No one had notified her that any spraying was going on in the area. And she was surprised and shocked. She felt so bad about it, that she offered to pay for the bees. And that’s no small offer, even though my bees are small potatoes compared to most any other kind of agriculture. Money just isn’t abundant and doesn’t come easily in Wyoming agriculture. And it’s been a tougher than normal grasshopper plagued year.
Yet, Bill and June were concerned about me and my bees. They were willing to make a personal sacrifice to make things right, even though they weren’t personally responsible. Have you meet anyone like these people! If so, they are as rare and special as June and Bill. Don’t pass by them lightly.
Is Spraying Malathion Healthy?
Well, it turns out the grasshopper sprayers were done for the season, as the hoppers are now too large to be effectively killed. But the Natrona County Health Department is protecting us from the West Nile Virus. And in the process has been spraying selective areas. And I just happened to move my bees there.
I was shocked! Spraying for mosquitoes? The temps have been near or above 100 degrees F with 30 mph winds for some time. As a result, things are dead bone dry. It’s been so dry, hot and windy, that I’m afraid to light my smoker while in the beeyard. I’m just thankful for the small amount of running water near my hives. Without it, my bees would have become crispy critters by now.
There is no standing water anywhere near my bees. And I haven’t even seen a mosquito this year, let alone been bit by one. Thank heavens our health department is protecting us. 🙂
But I shouldn’t be too hard on the Health Department. I talked with the field manager. Sounds like a conscientious guy. He’s been actively working with the commercial beekeepers in the area to limit damage. Spraying times are scheduled to avoid bee loss. And directly spraying beeyards is avoided when the locations are known. Unfortunately, they didn’t know about my beeyard and I didn’t know about their program. Sounds like I’m the first hobby beekeeper he’s encountered. He thought he had all his bases covered by talking with the commercial bee guys.
Maybe Healthier Now Than Earlier
That manager’s working relationship and attitude are a far cry from aerial spraying four decades ago. I was working a large commercial beeyard. Lots of white boxes. A big bee truck. Bee smokers abundantly used. And this beekeeper had on a white bee suit. A spray plane made a pass on a nearby field and terminated his first run by banking directly over me. I looked up his wing and saw him looking directly down it at me in shock. Then the spray covered both me and the bees. I retreated to the truck dazed.
Second pass, he banked the other way. But the overspray still got the beeyard. Now I’m upset!
Third pass, the beeyard gets covered by his drift. Now I’m not only covered in a possibly fatal dose of malathion, I’m furious. If I would have had a gun, I’d a shot him out of the sky!
Turns out I was lucky. Those were some of the hottest bees I’ve ever worked. And under the right conditions they were a match for a riled up Africanized hive. We would suit up in two layers of clothing and a beesuit. All seams, joints, openings were sown or taped shut. As a consequence my exposure was minimal. The bees didn’t make it. But this beekeeper did.
Recourse for the loss? In those days none. Sprayers didn’t even say they were sorry.
Are my bees still alive? Are the hive populations below what can over winter? Have the bees escaped relatively unscathed? I don’t know. And I won’t for a couple of days.
It’s that time of year in Wyoming. Time to knock the bees down and get them setup for winter. That’s what I’d planned for this weekend. The beeyard will probably look much different than I’d planned. But with some luck, maybe not much different.
I’ll let you know.