Our Garden Pest Control Could Be Harming Bees

The threat that crop pesticides pose to bees has been discussed and debated heavily, but a new study reminds us that the products we use on our own gardens can have a significant impact on our pollinators too.

Researchers at Purdue University wanted to look at what other chemicals might be affecting our pollinators besides exposure to pesticides from agriculture.

To study this, the researchers examined three hives in different settings: a meadow, a field treated with neonicotinoids – thought to be one of the main culprits in pollinator die-off — and a cornfield where no pesticides were used. In total, around 30 families of plants were represented in the study.

Scientists then analyzed the pollen available to bees in these areas over a period of 16 weeks to determine whether it contained pollutants.

No matter where hives were located, most bees picked up pollen that contained large amounts of pesticides. For example, the hives in the meadow and pesticide-treated field yielded pollen with about 29 different types of pesticides, while the non-treated cornfield actually had slightly more at 31 types.

Unsurprisingly, the most common chemical traces were from fungicides and herbicides. Neonicotinoids featured heavily, but so did a chemical called pyrethroid. Both appear to have an effect on bees.

Neonicotinoids appear to be more damaging, but they are usually found only on farmland where they are used to treat crops. However, pyrethroids are present in over-the-counter pest control solutions that we might buy for our home gardens.

One one hand, pyrethroids are quite desirable, as they act fast and require low concentrations to kill so-called pest species. However, they bind quickly to soil and do not get washed away by rain, meaning that they persist in the environment

As a result, bees might actually be exposed to far more pyrethroids in our home gardens — and on a more frequent basis. In fact, the researchers were able to identify spikes of pyrethroids in the months of August and September, when many people spray to ward off mosquitoes and other pest species.

Researchers Christian Krupke and Elizabeth Long say their study — published in late May in “Nature Communications” — shows a significant risk to bees.

“Although crop pollen was only a minor part of what they collected, bees in our study were exposed to a far wider range of chemicals than we expected,” Professor Krupke explained. “The sheer numbers of pesticides we found in pollen samples were astonishing.”

Based on this study alone, researchers cannot say with certainty that exposure to these chemicals creates a problem for honey bees and other pollinators. However, it’s reasonable to consider chemical exposure as a potential factor in the pollinator decline recorded worldwide.

In addition to neonicotinoids and other insecticides, pests such as the varroa mite have contributed to ill health in bee colonies. Bee-friendly habitats have also been reduced, and climate change may further impact bee numbers by altering flowering seasons and creating less hospitable environments.

So what do the researchers recommend we do about this potential problem? ”If you care about bees as a homeowner, only use insecticides when you really need to because bees will come into contact with them,” Long asserted.

If you’d like to find out more about how to keep pests at bay with non-pyrethroids, Care2 has a few ideas for organic, homemade pesticides.

Photo credit: Thinkstock.


Ernest M
Ernest M1 years ago

Thanks for the information!

Semo K
Semo K2 years ago

Nice post ... thanks
pest control company in dammam

Sarah Hill
Sarah H2 years ago

Wish there was a way to control pests without harming the beneficial bugs!

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus C2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

william Miller
william M2 years ago

I use no sprayes or chemicals of any type in my yard

Julie D.
Julie D2 years ago

I would think by now this is pretty common knowledge. I never use these poisons. We have free ranging chickens and horses who would be harmed by them, as well as the harm they do to us and the wild birds, bees, butterflies, etc. There are safe and natural solutions to pest problems that work wonderfully well.

heather g.
heather g2 years ago

Reading this makes sense after the recent report that 93% of people in the US have
traces of Monsanto's chemicals in their blood. At what stage does this situation start being important in people's lives?

Jan N.
Jan N2 years ago

Neville B. is that you?

Billie Sue B.
Billie Sue B2 years ago

the varroa mite are controlled by placing the hive on a heavy mesh screen, four inches or more from the ground. The mite fall through the screen. This controls 60% of the mites. By raising "mutt" bees and spacing the hives, the mite problems is reduced more.

luna starr
luna s2 years ago

wake the hell up people