The insecticide being sprayed throughout the North Shore to combat West Nile virus and other mosquito-borne illnesses also hits an unintended target: honeybees.
It’s a frustration and a concern for local beekeepers, some of whom say they’ve lost thousands of bees.
Beverly beekeeper Anita Deeley estimates that between 100,000 and 150,000 of her bees died last year — four hives — even though she covered them the night the city sprayed for mosquitoes.
This year, Deeley moved her hives prior to spraying last week in neighboring Salem.
”I understand why they need to spray, but it is a little frustrating for beekeepers,” Deeley said. “I wish they wouldn’t spray at all, but I understand why they’re spraying.”
Mosquitoes from several North Shore towns, including Salem and Beverly, have tested positive for West Nile virus this summer. The disease can be fatal, but health officials estimate that fewer than 1 percent of people infected with West Nile develop severe illness.
“Against this perceived threat, we’re spraying a cloud of spray in a neighborhood,” said Salem beekeeper Richard Girard. “It’s really throwing the baby out with the bath water. ... The spraying of this stuff, from a beekeeper’s perspective, is absolutely dire. You can’t protect your hives. It will kill them.”
Girard, a board member of the Essex County Beekeepers Association, says some beekeepers have put “no spraying” signs on their lawns.
Despite his objections, Girard lauded Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll’s effort to spread the word about spraying in South Salem.
“I applaud (Driscoll), even though it’s a program that I think is totally unnecessary,” he said.
Any resident can opt their property out of spraying by contacting the local board of health. But some beekeepers say their hives have been affected even when the spraying happens in other parts of town.