Hundreds of bees mysteriously die in regional South Australia
Peterborough mother Natasha Reid and daughter Acacia have been collecting dead bees to send to PIRSA. (Supplied: Natasha Reid)
Mystery surrounds the deaths of hundreds of bees in South Australia’s Mid North.
Bees of all sizes have been found dead in backyards, near smaller hives, and near a large bee hive in the town of Peterborough.
Peterborough local Natasha Reid and her daughter Acacia attempted to save some of the bees.
“My daughter and I decided we’d try and see if they were dehydrated or maybe it was the birds plucking them out of the trees, but it didn’t feel right; there were just too many,” Ms Reid said.
“We picked them up, put them into a container and tried to give them some water and a little bit of honey or sugar in the water, but that wasn’t doing any good.
“We just gave up on trying to help them at one point because my daughter was putting them all into this big open tank and trying to get them to stay alive, but she never had any luck.”
Ms Reid said the situation had been upsetting for her children.
“My daughter doesn’t like bugs dying for no reason,” Ms Reid said.
“My son who is a bug-lover is also very distraught about it.
“When they try and help one bee and it dies they feel like they failed.”
Poisons possibly to blame
Locals said they were concerned the bees may have been poisoned, as they say a council worker from the District Council of Peterborough spraying weed killer.
“It’s a possibility someone might have poisoned them,” Ms Reid said.
She said she had been in touch with the Department of Primary Industries and Regions (PIRSA) about the situation.
“The guy that I spoke to said that he wants members of the community to get containers and fill them with bees,” Ms Reid said.
Jason O’Connell, a Peterborough local of 13 years, said he had never seen anything like this before.
“At the moment, you might sit out there and there might be a dozen or two dozen bees instead of the normal two hundred bees out in the yard,” Mr O’Connell said.
“It could be due to the council having sprayed weeds recently, especially since now the weeds are flowering.
“If they’re spraying them the bees get a direct dose of [weedkiller], or it could be colony collapse.”
PhD student doesn’t think poison alone is responsible
Flinders University PhD student James Dorey said Roundup, a popular herbicide with an ingredient called glyphosate which is potentially harmful to bees, would not have been solely responsible for the bee deaths.
“It’s unlikely that they’re attributed to a spray of glyphosate,” Mr Dorey said.
“A recent paper has come out saying that it might impact the gut microflora of the bees, which is entirely possible.
“But it’s probably not enough by itself to result in a mass die out of bees.”
Mr Dorey said multiple factors could be responsible.
“An obvious contender might be insecticide use, so if someone has sprayed insecticide quite a lot either on the bees or on their food plants,” Mr Dorey said.
“Also, something like a disease which is kind of starting to rear its head because the bees are stressed for another reason.
“Also, some plants actually have toxic nectar for bees.
“It could be that they’ve had exposure to those as well as with some other stressors on top of that, such as insecticide or disease.”
Mr Dorey said the best thing the community could do was preserve the habitat by planting flora and making bee hotels.
Peterborough Mayor denies accusations
Mayor Ruth Whittle said the council had not sprayed weeds or beehives.
“We haven’t sprayed anything for weeks,” she said.
“In fact, we’ve got people out there chipping weeds — not spraying weeds —because we’ve had such high winds.
“The council is not spraying bees at the moment, haven’t been spraying for some time and when we do spray, we only spray weeds and we have no plans to do so in the future.”
The results of PIRSA’s testing will be available in the next few weeks.