Many pesticides used in gardening can kill pests as well as beneficial insects such as bees. If you keep bees, you know about the challenges of protecting bees from pesticides. Even if you use bee-safe insecticides, chances are your bees will probably pollinate flowers in neighboring gardens were no pesticides are used.
In this article, you will learn how to protect bees from harmful pesticides. You will also find out if there are alternative insecticides that are safe for bees.
What is Killing our Bees?
Scientists noticed a decline in bee populations in 2006 and U.S. Beekeepers reported that they were suffering losses of between 30 and 90% of their hive populations. The phenomenon was termed Colony Collapse Disorder.
Although researchers have not been able to identify the exact cause, many are concerned about the increased use of pesticides. A 2011 study by the University of Colorado found that pesticides were most likely one of the main contributing factors. Also, mites that affect bees and plants become more resistant to pesticides and this increases the need to use stronger chemicals.
In Australia, it seems that Colony Collapse Disorder has not affected Australian bees as it has done in Europe and North America. A report on 10Daily found that native bees in Australia are also declining and pesticides could be a contributing factor.
Some of the types of pesticides to blame for the decline in honeybee populations are neonicotinoids such as imidacloprid and clothianidin. The European Commission banned the use of several neonicotinoids in EU countries due to their potential negative impact on bee health.
Do Systemic Insecticides Harm Bees?
When researching the use of chemical pesticides, scientists came up with the idea of systemic pesticides. This is a way of treating plant seeds or applying pesticides to their roots. The idea is that plant-destroying insects are killed when they feed on the plant. The theory was that beneficial insects such as bees wouldn’t be harmed.
Neonicotinoids are also a type of systematic pesticide that can harm bees. A 2014 study found that systemic pesticides were not only affecting bee populations but also a wide range of beneficial pollinators.
Are Organic Pesticides Safe for Bees?
The best way to protect bees from pesticides is to use organic gardening methods that avoid the use of chemicals. Some government agencies advise against applying any type of pesticide to flowering ornamental plants.
What about the use of organic pesticides? Are there any bee-friendly insecticides that you can safely use?
There are many ways to keep your garden free from harmful pests without destroying any beneficial insects. Organic gardeners tend to find that they are able to maintain healthy bee populations. In fact, increasing the use of organic pesticides not only helps bees to flourish in your garden. Organic gardening using natural insecticides can encourage insects that feed on mites and other plant-destroying pests.
According to the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, there are a number of organic and natural pesticides that don’t harm bees. Some organic-based pesticides also have low-toxicity and can be used in certain circumstances.
Bee Safe Insecticides
What are the best types of insecticides that are safe for bees and also help protect your crops?
The Xerces Society reports that non-toxic bee pesticides include the following:
- Bacillus thuringiensis (BT)
- Kaolin clay
- Cydia pomonella granulosis
Some types of organic bee-safe insecticides that have low-toxicity or minimum impact include:
- Neem oil
- Boric acid
- Horticultural vinegar
- Lime sulfur
Let’s look at a few of the best natural insecticides that are safe for bees.
Neem oil is a great pest repellant to get rid of aphids and mites. Reports indicate that neem oil is non-toxic to bees, mammals, humans, and plants. It is also easy to make your own organic, bee-safe pesticide for treating plants.
You should mix 3.7 liters (1 gallon) of water with 2 tablespoons of organic neem oil. You can also add a 1 tablespoon of organic peppermint oil and 1 tablespoon of rosemary oil. Mix well and apply to both sides of plant leaves to kill off plant pests without harming bees.
Bee Safe Vinegar Weed Killer
Vinegar contains acetic acid which can help to kill some weeds without harming bees. Studies show that a concentration of acetic acid can be used as both a herbicide and pesticide. A strong vinegar solution can be enough to destroy unwanted plants from your garden.
You can spray 5% organic white vinegar or apple cider vinegar directly onto weeds. Or, you can purchase horticultural vinegar which has a 20% acetic acid concentration.
When using vinegar, you should be careful not to spray on plants you want to grow. Also, care should be taken to avoid any of the organic solution getting on to your skin or in your eyes. The best time to use this is in the evening when worker bees are less active.
Pesticides that are Bee Safe
Reports in 2019 indicated that an organic insecticide, fungicide, and miticide can help keep your garden free from unwanted bugs. At the same time, the 3-in-1 organic applicate is bee-friendly and doesn’t post any risk to the environment.