Slaughter of bees on campus may have violated law

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Beesssss

ALL THE BUZZZZ – Neuroscience major Jose Luis Baylon collects the carcases of about 5,000 hastily-exterminated European honey bees that swarmed near Parking Lot J. College officials promised to revisit policies about wild bees.
Photo by April Abarrondo

A global die off of life-giving bees has scientists perplexed, farmers on edge and informed humans worried about our future.

Southwestern College apparently has not been paying attention to the buzz.

College officials authorized the extermination of nearly 5,000 bees that had swarmed near Parking Lot J and some staff members want to know why.

A clustered swarm of bees was discovered by Chula Vista Police near student parking and the area was closed down before a college landscaping employee contacted Carlos Richardson, photography lab technician and go-to beekeeper at SWC.

Richardson identified the bees on the fence as a routine, non-lethal cluster.

“They don’t bother anybody,” he said. “You let them survive and in a day they’re gone.”

Richardson said he offered to remove and transport the bees out of the parking lot. When he returned a few hours later, the bees were dead.

San Diego Pest was hired by SWC’s purchasing department to exterminate the bees with Product 7, a poison specifically made for killing bee swarms.

Western honey bees, the species killed on campus, are a wild, native, free-roaming bee. They are the roaming mustangs of the breeze, spending their time soaring through California and the Southwest, pollinating flowers and plant life beneath them.

Members of SWC’s groundskeeping crew said bees are essential to our campus.

“Bees are pollinators and they’re no strangers to our school,” said Bruce Boman, a groundskeeping intern. “We need to understand the true nature of bees and their impact on human lives. In China, farmers are individually pollinating plants by hand because the bees aren’t around to pollenate. It takes hundreds of man hours to pollenate one site. Bees do it in 15, 20 minutes.”

Laws have changed the way bees are managed in California and nationally. California’s Apiary Protection Act enforces 16 articles which deem proper legal steps in order to take possession of a bee colony, distribute their honey or transport it.

SWC, by reflexively killing 5,000 bees, likely violated state and federal law.

Priya Jerome, director of Procurement, Central Services and Risk Management, was directed to address the issue with SWC employees.

“Procedures are being reviewed to ensure that all employees understand the protocol regarding bees,” she said.

Jerome said the bee removal protocol instructs maintenance and grounds personnel to section off areas with swarming bees until they fly away on their own. Richardson said he is hopeful the protocol will take the sting out of future bee incursions.

Infographic by Mason Masis, David McVicker, and Wendy Gracia.

Infographic by Mason Masis, David McVicker, and Wendy Gracia.

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