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Beekeepers alarmed by chemical spray near school gardens, hives

SNOHOMISH — Centennial Middle School students’ plans to bring their produce to market were scrapped after blackberries several feet away from their organic school garden were sprayed with herbicides.
Students of the school’s garden club had been carefully tending crops including kale, peas and blueberries in their organic garden prior to the unannounced Aug. 9 spraying.
They had decided to offer their harvest in exchange for donations at a special Aug. 16 Kids Vendor Day at the Snohomish Farmers Market.
Those crops had special help from more than 50,000 bees installed in several hives at the garden in May. The bees were provided by the Snohomish Youth Beekeeping Education group in partnership with the school district and garden club.
A sign posted after the spraying belatedly alerted the group to the chemical use and raised concerns about the health of the bees and the wholesomeness of the produce. 
In response, the club decided to cancel their participation at the market as it could not guarantee the produce was organic according to Beekeeping board member Tiffany Kelly.
The Snohomish School District had employed a licensed applicator to kill blackberry vines that were blocking a vendor’s access to maintain the school’s septic system, said district spokeswoman Kristin Foley.
Foley said the herbicides used were glyphosate and Crossbow. Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Roundup. Foley said the solution is rainfast, dries within two hours and does not leech off of plants or into the soil. She noted temperatures on the day of spraying were above 80 degrees and there was no rain for the two days after spraying.
Crossbow is another widely used herbicide, and specially indicated for use on woody plants such as blackberries. Crossbow is not generally indicated for use on vegetables and applicators are advised how to avoid product drift which can damage nearby plants even in spray amounts toO small to be seen.
The garden and bee shed were not sprayed, Foley said. Also, she said “the bushes sprayed near the bees were not in bloom.”
The area sprayed was approximately eight to 10 feet from the garden and bee shed.
Kelly said that with advance notice, the bee hives could have been closed off for a few days to protect the bees.
Centennial parent Shannon Bisher said she was sad that the district would spray and had decided to prohibit her child from joining the garden club for fear of chemical exposure.
The beekeeping group has asked the district to notify them in advance of spraying going forward. The district in turn suggested the groups develop a memorandum of understanding to guide their work going forward.
The beekeeper group hopes the district will consider alternatives such as hiring goats or enlisting volunteers to remove blackberry vines.
“We really appreciate … and want to continue our partnership with the district,” Kelly said. “This is a great opportunity (for the district) to be more aware.”
As for the garden club, students will have had a complex, real-life lesson about conflicting interests, communication and the ecosystem as they return to school soon and regroup, making new plans for a 2019 harvest.

 

  

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