Gardening for bees

Bee Friendly pest control for gardens

Since 1998, scientists, conservationists, and farmers have noticed an alarming trend. European honeybee populations are declining at rapid rates. Researchers believe several factors are at play here: viruses spread through the colonies, loss of habitat, migratory habits, and increased pesticide use.

One class of pesticides, in particular, has been implicated in the decline of bee populations. The European Council recently voted to ban this group of pesticides, neonicotinoids, in an effort to restore bee colonies.

Over 70 percent of the world’s crops are at least partially pollinated by bees. Without these pollinators, we would face a substantial loss of crop diversity.

In your own garden, a loss of pollinators means no more zucchini, pumpkins, summer squash, apples, berries, or melons. Some crops, such as carrots and onions, rely on bees to produce seed, rather than edible plant parts.

The need for safer pest control measures is apparent, but you might be wondering how to control pests without harming bees. Read on for a roundup of ideas.

Sunset over Poppy Field
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Organic Pest Control

Many pesticides are labeled as safe for organic use. These products are usually derived from plants or other natural materials and they might break down faster in the soil than synthetic products.

 

However, just because a product is labeled “organic,” doesn’t mean it won’t harm bees.

 

Below is a list of common organic pesticides, fungicides, and herbicides, and their toxicity to bees, according to the Xerces Society. When using a pesticide, always opt for the least toxic products.

Non-Toxic

 

  • Bacillus thuringiensis

  • Garlic

  • Kaolin clay

  • Corn gluten

  • Gibberellic acid

 

Moderately Toxic

  • Boric acid

  • Neem

  • Ryania

  • Adjuvants

  • Horticultural vinegar

  • Copper

  • Lime sulfur and sulfur

Highly Toxic

  • Neonicotinoids

  • Diatomaceous earth

  • Insecticidal soap and oil

  • Pyrethrins

  • Rotenone

  • Sabadilla

  • Spinosad

  • Copper sulfate

Applying Pesticides

How you apply pesticides can also make a difference in their toxicity to bees. Pesticides kill bees in several ways.

 

First, bees absorb the chemicals through their exoskeletons when they’re exposed to pesticides in the air. Pesticides can contaminate pollen, nectar, and even dew. When bees come in contact with these substances, they can be killed. Finally, bees sometimes take contaminated pollen and nectar back to the hive, where it harms the other bees.

Tips, tricks, and timeless wisdom on fruitful gardening without dangerous chemicals and pesticides.

If you must apply pesticides, apply them only to the affected plants, and preferably when the plants aren’t in bloom. Apply them late in the evening when bees aren’t active. Spray pesticides during dry conditions, if possible, since dew can retain the toxins.

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Gardener