2019 June: 10 million bees killed – Griffith (NSW). Pesticide: Fipronil

No more buzz: Griffith apiarists want to see chemical banned from use in Australia after major bee poisoning


June 14 2019:

The use of a toxic chemical has left 10 million bees in Griffith dead.

Five local apiarists have seen around 340 hives between them destroyed by the use of Fipronil, and they’re now calling for the insecticide to be banned in Australia.

The chemical is banned in around 49 countries including most of Europe.

Apiarist Les Ellis lost 75 hives alone to Fipronil contamination.

“It’s overkill, it’s too toxic,” Mr Ellis said.

The chemical has a 120 day half-life which means a drop on a flower can be brought back to a bee hive and can have devastating consequences

Mr Ellis said the inside of hives including wax and honey would either have to be burned or buried and cannot be re-used without endangering new bees.

Mr Ellis said the loss of his 75 hives effectively means he will retire for the second time in his life.

“It would take two years to replace 75 hives, that’s two years without income,” he said.

Fipronil is often used to combat termites or ants and only needs a few drops to be brought back to a hive or nest to be effective.

What’s not clear to the apiarists however, is how 340 hives were contaminated.

One theory is a wild bee hive was sprayed and the then unprotected honey was taken back to the apiarists hives.

While the chemical has been used to protect crops, the apiarists believed when the hives were moved to ‘safer’ locations closer to Griffith they would have been protected from contamination.

“Twenty years ago people wouldn’t care less about bees, now there’s a real buzz about bees because people understand the role they play,” Ian Carter said.

“We don’t know why this chemical is being used in town.”

Mr Carter had his bees in two locations to shield them from insecticides however many of those hives have since been destroyed.

Laboratory testing revealed the bees which had died were poisoned by fipronil which is toxic to humans if ingested in large amounts.

Apiarist Tom Doubleday said he believed the use fipronil around Griffith was contrary to the directions.

“There’s other chemicals which will do the job, they’re less toxic but more costly,” Mr Doubleday said.