Honeybee carcasses coated the ground around hundreds of Florida beehives after a mysterious massacre claimed millions of bees and mutilated a way of life for local bee keepers.
Experts have ruled out 'colony collapse disorder' and the bee keepers suspect that their bees were poisoned with pesticide. Florida agriculture officials and the local sheriff's office are both investigating.
No one can tell yet what killed as many as 12 million bees from 800 hives this week in Brevard County, on central Florida's Atlantic coast. The massive bee die-off has stung Charles Smith, whose Smith Family Honey Company lost $150,000 worth of bees.
'I'm a pretty tough guy but it is heart wrenching,' he told News 13 in Orlando. 'Not only is it a monetary loss here, but we work really hard on these bees to keep them in good health.' Smith scooped up handfuls of dead bees that littered the ground around his hives. The bees he raises go to farmers around the country to pollinate numerous crops, he said.
The bee deaths show the tell-tale signs of pesticide poising, experts said. State officials are testing dead bees to determine exactly what killed them. The Brevard County Sheriff's Office is investigating the deaths, which spanned 30 sites in a mile-and-a-half radius, as a possible crime. 'The fact that it was so widespread and so rapid, I think you can pretty much rule out disease,' Bill Kern, a University of Florida entomologist, told Florida Today. 'It happened essentially almost in one day.
Usually diseases affect adults or the brood, you don’t have something that kills them both.' So-called 'colony collapse disorder' has killed bees in millions of hives around the world, but the effects of that disease are more gradual and the bees typically leave the hive before they die, Kern said. County officials sprayed mosquito-killing pesticide from the air last week, though they said the poison dissipates quickly and should not have harmed the bees.
'I'll never get completely compensated for this unless someone handed me 400 beehives,' Smith told Treasure Coast Newspapers. 'I lost the bees, the ability to make honey and the ability to sell the bees.'