Beekeeper says Weber County mosquito abatement crews killed his bees

Posted at 10:06 PM, Jul 07, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-08 00:10:22-04

WEBER COUNTY, Utah -- Utah may be known as the Beehive State, but at least one beekeeper in Weber County says he's having a hard time keeping them alive. He says mosquito abatement teams are spraying too close to his hive, killing his honeybees.

"I noticed them laying around flopping on the entrance, some of them were inside, dying inside, and some were on the grass," said Joe Benstog as he described his beehive on the morning of June 29.

It just so happens the bees started dying around the same time the Weber Mosquito Abatement District sprayed pesticides outside Benstog's house. He doesn't think it's a coincidence.

"I know what bugs do when they are sprayed, and these were definitely sprayed," Benstog said.

Benstog said it's too early to tell how much damage has been done.

"For all I know my queen is dead right now because I haven't had a chance to dig down and find her," Benstog said.

The Weber Mosquito Abatement District acknowledged there's a good possibility their pesticide did kill the bees.

"On the label it says it's highly toxic to bees," said Ryan Arkoudas of the Weber Mosquito Abatement District.

The district says they do their best to avoid the insects, but their job is to kill mosquitoes, and sometimes their trucks end up in the same neighborhood as a beehive.

"We're not just out spraying indiscriminately trying to cover every street, every week, we are targeting where the mosquitoes are, we were in this particular area because of a request to be in that area," Arkoudas said.

The district says even if they know a beehive is nearby, they still spray, unless the beekeeper specifically tells them not to.

"We had not been contacted, we didn't even visually know, could see that that hive was there, it's in the back, off of the road, we had no idea it was there," Arkoudas said.

The district has now implemented a no-spray buffer around the property. Benstog says these bees are part of his family, and he hopes he never has to witness a poisoning like this again.

"Pretty frustrated," he said. "It's a lot of money and time, I come out every day, you got to take the hive apart once a week, you're supposed to, and you get attached to the bees."