How to Protect Honey Bees When Fighting Mosquitoes

You probably already know from bitter experience how much mosquitoes can ruin your outdoor experience during the summer. And they’re not just a nuisance – they can also carry West Nile virus, Zika virus, and other deadly diseases. That is why it is so important to take measures to protect yourself and deter mosquitoes from taking up residence in your yard.

In fact, in many cities and towns, mass spraying of pesticides is a common practice to keep the mosquito population under control. What often gets overlooked when implementing these measures, however, is the effect they can have on other, more beneficial, critters – such as honey bees.

Here, we tell you how to protect those precious honey bees while implementing successful mosquito abatement measures.

First, though, a word about honey bees. These creatures not only produce honey, they are also responsible for pollinating many of our fruit and vegetable crops. Without honey bees, our farmers would see a huge drop in production and may not be able to maintain their business.

The worker bees who venture outside to collect pollen, nectar, and water are in the greatest danger from pesticides but they are not alone. Insecticide exposure occurs either directly or via drift (pesticides carried on the wind). Bees that are exposed in this way don’t survive. However, bees can also collect pesticides that have settled on flowers and carry it back to the hive, potentially infecting the entire colony.

So, how can you protect yourself and your family from mosquitoes without killing bees?

The following guidelines will reduce insecticide risks to bees and other beneficial insects.

Apply the pesticide to the ground

This will reduce the chances of insecticide drift. Do not apply insecticides to flowering plants. Bees forage on flowers. Many insecticide labels even forbid spraying blooming plants.

Opt for granular insecticides, which are too heavy to be carried by wind and are unlikely to stick to bees’ hairs if they do come into contact with them.

Apply pesticides in the evenings

If you must use aerial sprays, apply them in the evenings when bees have returned to their hives. Bees are most active during the day when temperatures rise above 55-60 degrees F. 

Cover up the hives

If you are a beekeeper and have hives in your yard, you can cover them when spraying will occur. State and local governments sometimes warn residents prior to controlled spraying. This is not always the case, however, so reach out to your local agricultural agency so they know to keep you informed.

If you live near farmers, make sure they know about your bees. Have them tell you when they plan to treat their crops. Wet burlap or other breathable material is best. This will shield your hive against pesticides while still allowing it to receive air. This should only be used as a last resort, however. Bees can still suffocate or overheat under burlap. 

Try using mosquito dunks

This product contains Bacillus thuringensis israelensis (Bti), a species of bacteria that kills mosquito larvae. You simply place them in any standing water sources that exist in your yard, such as bird baths or wading pools.

Bti is of low toxicity to bees and nontoxic to mammals, birds, and fish. However, it has been shown to negatively affect other aquatic insects and tadpoles so it should not be applied to ponds or natural water bodies.

Keep mosquitoes from coming into your yard in the first place

On top of using mosquito dunks, you can also remove standing water from your yard, or at least regularly change the water. This includes birdbaths, wading pools, and empty containers and flowerpots that have filled with rainwater. Fill in puddles with dirt. After all, standing water is where mosquitoes breed.

Mosquitoes also seek shelter in areas with heavy vegetation, so also be sure to regularly mow your lawn, trim back the hedges and remove any weeds or tall grasses. Finally, you can try a mosquito trap that uses light, carbon dioxide, and heat to draw mosquitoes in and then kill them.

Use a less potent pesticide

Choose bee-safe pesticides when possible. This protects honey bees and other wildlife. Use this guide to find the best pesticides to use and which to avoid.

2 Comments

Charlotte

Does Mosquito Joe pose a threat to honey bees? Or any of the commercial mosquito sprayers?

    Karen

    It depends on the chemicals used during the mosquito spraying. You should ask the company you decide to hire about the products they use for mosquitoes and their effect on honey bees.

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