Keeper upset over massive bee kill in Isle of Wight County

ISLE OF WIGHT COUNTY, Va. (WAVY) — A bee keeper in Isle of Wight County called 10 On Your Side because he claims his bees were killed by harsh pesticides sprayed on a neighboring cotton field.

Bee keeper David Mitchell says the pesticides should not have been applied to the the cotton crop — which is in bloom — while the bees were in the field, which is usually from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Thousands of bees no longer swarm on Mitchell’s property, because they were wiped out on Monday. He shared with 10 On Your Side a video he took when he discovered what happened.

“Look at all those dead bees. Folks, we are looking at $70,000 lost for me today,” Mitchell says in the home video. That is his estimated loss by the spring, as 30 of his 60 hives continue to die off from the harsh chemicals brought back to the hive by bees that were in the fields Monday night.

Mitchell blames farmer Lucas Braswell, who drives his pesticide sprayer over a 71-acre cotton field he rents across the street.

“I lose my livestock on property I own because he sprays a field he rents,” Mitchell said. “There’s something not right about that. It’s not.”

Braswell tells a different story, but would not go on camera with WAVY News. He told us, “I followed all the regulations. I gave him 48 hours notice when I was coming to spray. I offered a couple of different times in morning and evening. He said evening was fine. After we started spraying, he called and said we were killing his bees. There is no evidence at this time we killed his bees.”

In fairness to Braswell, Mitchell did say he could spray at night.

“I probably didn’t think fast enough when he was on the phone, but it’s not like I was given a big option,” Mitchell said.

Communication is an issue here, but Mitchell claims he wasn’t given a morning option, which would allow him to lock down the hive the night before. It would allow the spraying to take place in the morning, and afterwards the hive could have been opened for bees to leave.

The hive cannot be locked down for the entire day waiting for the spraying in the evening because the heat would kill the bees.

“I called 15 minutes after he started and said this isn’t working. I’m having a massive bee kill over here,” Mitchell said.

Both agree the Isle of Wight County Extension agent — who was not in the office Thursday — allowed the spraying.

Mitchell claims Braswell had no interest in talking about what happened. “After it happened, I told him, ‘Please come across the street and look what you are doing to my business.’ He told me, ‘I don’t see the need to do that.’ That’s what he told me.”

Again, WAVY.com contacted the extension agency, which did not return our calls Thursday. By the way, each of Mitchell’s 60 hives can produce $2,500 in honey each year.

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