by Mark Powers and Karen Lauterbach, Extension Master Gardener Volunteers
Last summer we noted with concern the rapid proliferation of roadside signs advertising spraying to rid yards of mosquitoes and ticks.
We have kept honey bees for several years and shuddered to think of the risks these chemical ‘treatments’ would pose to our hard working bees. Last week, we saw the signs nearby, with one across the street from our hives.
Honey bees face multiple challenges in 2019, the worst being the parasitic varroa mites that invaded North America in 1987. These mites attach to honey bee larvae and adults, drain them of vital fluids, and infect them with destructive viruses. We test and treat for mites on a regular basis to control this blight and keep our hives alive. We don’t need another insult to our honey bees, especially one that is man-made.
There are safe, effective ways to control mosquitoes, such as removing any standing water from your property. North Carolina State University’s Dr. Michael Waldvogel, an Extension specialist in Entomology and Plant Pathology, points out some of the risks of chemical treatments. Pyrethroid pesticides, he explains, do not selectively eliminate mosquitoes and ticks. They kill all insects, including beneficial species like ladybugs, butterflies, and honey bees. Pesticides may knock down mosquitoes for short periods of time. For some application methods this is measured in hours. Mosquitoes don’t respect property lines, and ticks may return on the hides of passing deer and squirrels soon after a yard is sprayed. The $40 a month for spraying can buy little.
Honey bees forage for their nutrition as far away as three miles during daylight hours while plants are blooming. Spraying during these hours is most hazardous to pollinators. If bees forage on toxin-coated plants, they may not make it home. If they do, they could share chemicals with their hive mates.
An online resource, DriftWatch, aims to inform pesticide sprayers about locations of beehives across North Carolina. Homeowners can view the locations of hives near them, and all beekeepers should be sure to register their hives.
As the weather warms, signs advertising spraying for mosquitoes and ticks will sprout like dandelions. But think before you act. If you use practical and nontoxic pest management strategies, you can avoid sprays that indiscriminately kill the insects in your yard and introduce toxins into your environment. Many of our bugs are helpful.
Give bees a chance.
Sources & Further Reading
An article by Dr. Michael Waldvogel describing safe, effective ways to control mosquitoes: https://entomology.ces.ncsu.edu/mosquito-control-around-homes-and-in-communities/
Drift Watch: https://nc.driftwatch.org/map