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Claiborne County bee keeper says herbicide spraying kills bees

Published: Aug. 2, 2017 at 5:52 PM EDT
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We told you last week about a Claiborne County tobacco farmer who said pesticide spraying near power lines killed his crops.

The power company said it helps with maintenance and cuts down on power outages, but now bee keepers are worried it's killing their hives.

Jay Heselschwerdt, a bee keeper, said, "It makes me pretty mad. It's put our family behind on that income that's coming in from honey sales."

Heselschwerdt said he's built his life around the bee business for about two decades. He said pesticide spraying from Powell Valley Electric is hurting his insects, explaining that he believes spraying last year killed off 34 of his 38 hives.

Heselschwerdt said, "I went and checked my bees and there was no activity whatsoever on the bee hives."

Those hives have cost several thousand dollars in honey lost, and it's a long road ahead.

Heselschwerdt said, "That's taking money out of my own pocket every year."

Powell Valley Electric hired a third party to spray herbicides, the same process used by Tennessee Valley Electric and Tennessee Department of Transportation.

Powell Valley sent us a study rating the herbicides as 'practically non-toxic' to honey bees. But bee keepers still disagree.

Heselschwerdt said, "There's so many different ways that it can poison us. It gets into the plant, goes down into the ground. It's going to be there for a year or two years depending on the plant."

The third party that sprays in Claiborne County is Mississippi-based U.S. Applicators. They said the chemicals they use are EPA approved and they are licensed. This is the first time they've sprayed for Powell Valley Electric, but they have done work for other companies in the region before.

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