Beekeepers protect hives from pesticide amid virus fight

ELKHART, Ind. (AP) — Beekeepers in a northern Indiana county say they were able to protect their honey-producing hives from a pesticide used in aerial spraying to combat a rare mosquito-borne virus.

Crews in Elkhart County recently began spraying Dibrom to kill mosquitoes that spread eastern equine encephalitis. That spraying is expected to kill about 90% of the area's mosquitoes, but it can also decimate beehives if they're not prepared properly ahead of time.

Jeff Burbrink, an educator with Purdue Extension Elkhart County, said Thursday no harm to beehives was reported to him, adding that many local beekeepers took proper precautions.

Kyle Swartz, a beekeeper from Bristol, said all three of his hives are "doing great" after the spraying.

"I put a screen that narrows the opening for the hives and then I put a screen over that so they have plenty of ventilation," Swartz said.

Jim Walker said his hive in Elkhart is also doing well.

"I knew this was happening, so I took some precautions and screened my hive in," he told The Elkhart Truth.

The Indiana State Department of Health detected the virus in the state last month. It can infect the human brain, and four people in Michigan have died from the illness.

Local beekeepers have been using the app BeeCheck, which enables beekeepers and pesticide applicators to work together to protect apiaries using the app's mapping program, Burbrink said.

Ethan Mitchell owns Mitchell's Honey Farm which has 600 beehives, 84 of which were in zones that were sprayed. He removed 64 the spraying zones and left the other 20 behind to test the effect of the spray.

"If they have to spray in the spring or summer, I can't move that many hives with honey in them. So I want to see what it does to the bees," Mitchell said, noting that he plans to check on his test beehives soon.


Information from: The Elkhart Truth,