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More than 50 million bees were found dead last week in Međimurje County, Croatia, prompting officials to declare a natural disaster on Monday, June 15, 2020.

On June 9, millions of dead bees were seen blanketing the ground in an area between Podturn and Gardinovac, near the border with Hungary, leaving beekeepers shocked and devastated.

20 beekeepers reportedly lost about 600 hives, which is around 50 million bees. Pesticide poisoning is suspected to be the cause of the ecological disaster, although it has not been confirmed yet.

"It is probably insecticide poisoning," said Ana Pepelko, a beekeeper from Gardinovac. "We'll know whether this is the result of spraying potatoes or rapeseed after the analysis."

Željko Trupković from the Association of Beekeepers of the Međimurje County called the incident disastrous.

Dražen Jerman, the president of the Pčelinjak association (the hive association), noted that this was not the first case of bee poisoning in the area. A few years ago, Jerman said his association staged a protest against pesticide use in front of the Association of Beekeepers.

Among other reasons, Jerman singled out the pollution of Sava River by antibiotics, adding that these were not favorable for ecological agriculture.

Ivan Vučetić from the Center for Forensic Examinations, Research, and Expertise in Zagreb, collected samples of bees, honey, and fields to identify the accurate cause of death through laboratory analysis.

The Public Health Institute of Međimurje County will do honey tests, while the Institute of Pharmacology and Toxicology of the Veterinary Faculty in Zagreb will determine whether deaths occurred due to bee diseases.

A study on its impact on human health will also be conducted.

On June 15, county officials reported that they discussed further steps with beekeepers in a meeting attended by representatives of the police and the County Agricultural Advisory Service.

The officials remarked that they will give "maximum support to beekeepers in order to repair the damage as soon as possible and protect the remaining bees."

Beekeepers will receive around 225 dollars or 200 euros per damaged hive. However, Jerman pointed out that the losses are immeasurable. "Just think about the importance of the bees for the pollination."

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