A hive of honey bees is on display at the Vermont Beekeeping Supply booth at the 82nd annual Vermont Farm Show at the Champlain Valley Expo in Essex Jct., Vt., on Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014. (AP Photo/Andy Duback)

Cape Town - A bee farmer in Tulbagh is counting the cost after thousands of his bees were wiped out when an aerial crop sprayer sprayed nearby canola fields with pesticide.

Residents of the Cape Winelands town are angry about the potential health impacts on them and also the noise caused by the planes flying low over residential areas for up to 11 hours a day for the past three weeks.

Stean van den Berg, who farms bees with his father Pedro van den Berg, said they faced a loss of more than R1 million.

They had not only lost bees from 170 hives but 10kg of honey they would have received from each hive.

He is furious he was not informed a toxic pesticide would be be sprayed near his fields.

"The canola fields are usually alive with insects - now it's a dead zone," Van den Berg said.

He said there were bee-friendly products on the market which could have been used.

Dr Gerhard Verdoorn, from the Griffon Poison Information Centre, said the pesticide used contained methamidophos which was registered, but not for use for canola.

He said the application had been unlawful and the incident had been reported.

"Methamidophos is a pretty nasty compound. And with aerial applications there is always the problem of drift."

He said all pollinators in the area would have been affected.

The owner of the canola fields said the pesticide had been recommended by his adviser and was registered.

But Verdoorn said there was no pesticide containing methamidophos that would be applied lawfully in South Africa.

Verdoorn has asked inspectors from the Department of Agriculture to investigate, and said the farmer and the aerial applicator were liable for charges of misconduct.

The penalty, if found guilty, could be a fine of R2 000, one year in jail or both.

Arendene Fourie Du Plessis, who has a playschool in the Tulbagh, said at one stage the plane flew over more than 100 times a day.

"I had a headache and the children were complaining of headaches."

She said there were reports of people checking out of guest houses because of the noise.

"There have been complaints made to the police about noise pollution."

There were also reports of people living in Witzenville, the informal area of Tulbagh, which is next to the canola fields being drenched with the spray and their washing covered in it.

Fourie du Plessis, who also represents the Freedom Front Plus in the town, said they understood farmers had to spray, but were concerned there had not been enough communication.

"They also shouldn't spray over residential areas. We could see the spray coming out of the nozzles when the plane turned around."

Patty Niewoudt, chief executive of Tulbagh Tourism, said they were extremely concerned after hearing about the bees' death.

"We just want to know it's not dangerous," she said.

Niewoudt added Tulbagh was a holiday and wedding destination and a place where people came for peace and quiet - it wasn't a place where they wanted to listen to the constant flying.

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Cape Argus