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Farmer admits accidentally killing millions of bees after spraying his crops

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Millions of dead bees in Quintana Roo put the next honey harvest in doubt. Photo: Diario de Yucatán

José María Morelos, Q. Roo — Authorities are investigating the long-term impact of a “toxic cloud” that killed at least 15 million bees, putting at risk next year’s honey harvest.

The death of the honeybees was linked to a pesticide sprayed at a chili-pepper farm.

The bees were cultivated by small-scale, independent beekeepers who depended on honey production for their livelihood. Losses could add up to over 2 million pesos, or over 120,000 U.S. dollars.

The Secretary of Rural Development and Fisheries (Sedarpe) of Quintana Roo, Pedro Pérez Díaz, said that they are looking for resources to assist affected beekeepers in the community of La Candelaria.

A Yucatecan farmer has taken responsibility for the devastation after he was found to have applied an insecticide marketed under the brand name Regent 4 SC. An estimated ​​four hectares of habanero pepper crops in José María Morelos was fumigated with the insecticide.

Regent 4SC is banned in many European countries, but allowed in Mexico. It is also used in the United States.

So far, 365 beehives in 18 apiaries have been hit, all within a radius of up to five kilometers/three miles from the chillar — the local term for habanero plantations.

The beehive of honeycombs in mobile frames, invented and patented in 1852 by the American beekeeper Lorenzo Lorraine Langstroth, is still used in modern beekeeping. Their wooden frames allow for extracting honey without destroying the breeding nest.

Each hive can house from 20,000 to 80,000 bees, depending on its size. In 2017, 3,700 tons of honey was produced in the state.

The pesticides’ effect on butterflies, spiders and wild bees, as well as the water table and even in the health of farmers exposed to the chemical, will also be studied.

In the ejido La Candelaria, just over 400 families with three or four children on average, form an indigenous community that lives off the land.

A farmer in the region earns approximately 50 pesos/2.63 dollars per day, which represents income of less than 20,000 pesos per year, or 1,053 dollars.

The group has been advised by experts and lawyers who helped them to enter their complaints in writing, and that they are waiting for the authorities to carry out legal proceedings.

Sources: El Universal, Diario de Yucatán

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