ENCINITAS — Encinitas Union school officials confirmed the hiring of a local bee removal expert in response to a Coast News story that highlighted complaints the district received after exterminating a hive on the Flora Vista Elementary School campus during Spring Break.
The district has hired James McDonald, who operates the Encinitas Bee Co., and was quoted in The Coast News story, as a vendor to remove any reported bee colonies on the district campuses.
McDonald reached out to The Coast News this week and said he had been hired by district facilities and maintenance director Gerry Devitt.
“This is a good contract,” McDonald said. “I am glad the district is moving in the direction of saving the bees.”
Encinitas Union Superintendent Timothy Baird has defended the district’s action at Flora Vista, which he said was done because removal would have been cost prohibitive. He said he hopes the incident doesn’t overshadow the district’s long-standing reputation of being environmentally conscious.
“In this case, I guarantee that every district and City in the state have had to kill a bee at some time,” Baird said. “We try not to but in cases such as this we would have had to break into the building foundation to take the bees out alive. The number of bees that we save by not using harsh pesticides on a regular basis far outweighs the number of bees impacted in this event.”
The Coast News requested records from the district detailing the number of bee complaints and removals since 2010. School district officials said they don’t keep such records, but said they receive an average of six bee calls per year. In most cases, the district discovers that the hives are in transition, and typically will move out in a matter of days. In those cases, the area is cordoned off until the bees naturally migrate away from the area.
In two cases in 2014, however, the district contracted with a local company Bee Kind to remove hives.
Baird said that the district also uses bee boxes with pheromones to attract the bees into the box that can then be transported to a safe location. Staff, he said, has access to bee suits, which are used to protect crews while relocating the bees to a safe location.
Residents earlier this month contacted The Coast News after they saw district crews spraying what appeared to be insecticide on a bee hive under a portable building on the campus. They questioned why the district did not remove them during the holiday week when no students were on campus.
McDonald has advocated for the city and school districts to ban the use of pesticides that contain neonicotinoids, which are believed to harm bees. In The Coast News article, McDonald disagreed with the district’s assertion that the hive on the Flora Vista campus could not be removed and thus had to be exterminated.
“Colonies of bees that can’t be removed alive are like hen’s teeth. They don’t exist,” McDonald said in the previous article. “The district probably wanted the quick fix, and didn’t want the headaches or to spend the money.”