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South African beekeepers blame insecticide for 1M-plus bee deaths

By Danielle Haynes
South African beekeepers blame insecticide for 1M-plus bee deaths
A beekeepers association said more than 1 million bees have died near Cape Town, South Africa. File Photo by Kim Ludbrook/EPA-EFE

Nov. 26 (UPI) -- More than 1 million bees died near Cape Town, South Africa, a disaster beekeepers are blaming on the misuse of an agricultural pesticide called Fipronil.

Brendan Ashley-Cooper, vice-president of the Western Cape bee association, said about 100 of hives had been affected and estimates between 1 million and 1.5 million of his bees have died. He said the deaths would not greatly affect the country's overall bee population, though the overall number of deaths is unknown, the BBC reported. It will have a small impact on this year's honey production.

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"A week ago we started getting calls that be beekeepers were finding dead bees in front of their hives. I came to inspect my bee site and found similar results and found thousands upon thousands of dead bees in front of a lot of my bee hives," Ashley-Cooper said.

Beekeepers were conducting tests to determine the cause of the bee deaths.

Fipronil is used to kill fleas, lice and ticks and has been used by Cape Town wine farmers to limit the ant population in the region. The European Union banned the insecticide in 2013, and it was linked to contaminated eggs in Germany, Britain and the Netherlands earlier this year.

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