Sat, Sep 02, 2017 - Page 3 News List

Insecticide is prime suspect in Nantou County bee deaths

By Chen Feng-li  /  Staff reporter

Millions of bees in Nantou County have died suddenly, with a local official saying on Sunday that the bees might have been poisoned by the insecticide fipronil, which has also been involved in a food scare.

The Council of Agriculture in January last year banned the use of fipronil suspension concentrates in agricultural produce. However, 45 farms nationwide were found to have produced eggs tainted with the insecticide since Aug. 20.

As of Wednesday, about 1,574,640 eggs from the affected farms had been withdrawn.

While the council said the insecticide has only moderate acute toxicity, the case has alarmed the public.

A farmer surnamed Liang (梁) in Puli Township (埔里) on Sunday said he had cultivated 430 beehives, with each containing nearly 30,000 bees.

However, more than 10 million of his bees — about 80 percent — had suddenly died, Liang said, adding that the first deaths occurred early last month, but many more cases had occurred in the past week.

Many other farmers told him they had encountered similar problems with their bees, adding that they had tried to stem the losses by moving their colonies to other townships.

Taiwan Agricultural Research Institute officials examined the colonies on Tuesday, Liang said.

The officials said the deaths might have resulted from fipronil residue found on betel nut trees near the bee colonies, but a reliable conclusion could only be reached when the results of the inspection are finalized next week.

Nantou County Department of Agriculture Director Chen Jui-ching (陳瑞慶) on Sunday said that the bees might have been infected by the insecticide, which had been applied to betel nut trees and passionfruit plants from which they collected nectar.

The returning bees then spread the chemical to other bees in the colony, causing widespread deaths in the beehives, he said.

Farmers said they do not use fipronil, as it is costlier than the insecticides they commonly use.

A retailer in the township said imports of the insecticide have decreased and that it is mainly used in private gardens.

Additional reporting by Lin Chia-nan

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