Members of the Loudoun Beekeepers Association questioned the county’s decision to apply a bifenthrin-based insecticide, called Talstar, which they said is highly toxic to bees and poses a substantial threat to beekeeper-owned bees and the vulnerable population of wild honeybees, which are still recovering from the introduction of a devastating foreign parasite decades ago.
Bill Bundy, president of the Virginia State Beekeepers Association and a member of the Loudoun Beekeepers Association, said he and other beekeepers had no idea the county was considering spraying in parks and were not contacted by county officials before a decision was reached.
“We were made aware of it very late in the game,” Bundy said. “The first time I heard about it, the decision had been made.”
Matt Gaillardetz, president of the Loudoun Beekeepers Association, noted that warnings about the toxicity to bees are clearly stated on the Talstar label, which says that the product should not be applied or allowed to drift to blooming crops if bees are visiting the treatment area.
Flowering plants treated with the product, Gaillardetz said, “will be detrimental to the visiting honey bee, and perhaps the colony if the bee makes it back to the nest to store the poisoned food.”
The county first announced the campaign to stop the spread of Lyme disease at a March 20 Board of Supervisors meeting, when the board voted unanimously to declare 2012 “Lyme Disease Awareness Year” in Loudoun. The supervisors created a 10-point action plan to combat the disease and declared that insecticide sprays would be used to help reduce the population of ticks at county parks.
Bundy, who owns Redgate Farm in Leesburg and manages 70 beehives, said several members of the Loudoun Beekeepers Association contacted Supervisor Geary Higgins (R-Catoctin) with their concerns, “but the answer was pretty perfunctory, that this is something that must be done to fight Lyme,” he said.
Higgins, who co-sponsored the Lyme disease campaign along with Vice Chairman Janet Clarke (R-Blue Ridge) and Supervisor Kenneth “Ken” Reid (R-Leesburg), said at the March 20 meeting that many constituents identified Lyme disease as a critical issue during his campaign in the fall.
Higgins said that he had recently heard from residents concerned about the spraying and that the county planned the insecticide application carefully to minimize environmental impact.
The total sprayed area was also very small, he said — 196 acres — and Loudoun’s total acreage is about 333,000.