Do Misting Systems Play a Role in Bee Deaths?

A very common question we are asked in this industry is: “Does this harm bees?” Does Mosquito Misting contribute to bee deaths? With the media worrying people about the declining state of the bee population we wanted to explain all the details surrounding the bees and pesticide. Well mostly pesticide…

A little background on bees 

This explanatory article would not be complete without some very basic bee information. Bees are responsible for 1/3 of our food. Without bees, we would not survive on Earth. A good majority of the food we consume requires bees (alfalfa, for example, cannot grow without bees). Additional (non-food) plants that are harmed include oilseeds and cotton.

The hive consists of a queen, male “drones”, and female “workers”. In the beehive males are only used for mating while females do everything else. In slim times when the queen doesn’t need mating the women will push the male outside of the hive to starve to death. It is also worth noting that males don’t have stingers, are incapable of feeding themselves or foraging for food, and they die immediately upon mating. Female bees outnumber their male counterparts 100 to 1. In the hive, they do everything except mating (the only thing males do). Some of their responsibilities include: nursing, cleaning, honeycomb duties, picking pollen, fixing the hive, collecting water, and guarding the hive.

Queens mate only once in their lifetime and the sperm she receives lasts her entire reign (a few years typically). Once she runs low on sperm the worker bees will kill her and a new queen replaces her. If no queen is readily available to replace her the hive races to “raise” a new one. They must take a larva younger than 3 days old and fertilize the egg to develop into a queen. If they are unsuccessful the other worker bees develop ovaries and lay their eggs but because they are not fertilized they all hatch into males. Once the males die the hive dies. With no queen, it is inevitable.

Other Animals/Bugs

At the top of the list for bee deaths is other bugs. The media won’t tell you this because honestly it’s boring! At least for them, not for us. We’ve linked a video that does all the explaining for us. 30 Japanese Giant Hornets can destroy an entire hive (upwards of 30,000 bees) in only a few hours.

Neonicotinoids

Neonicotinoids is a relatively new pesticide that was introduced around the early 2000’s. It is different from other pesticides in that you do not apply it to growing crops but instead it is inside the seeds. This pesticide grows inside the plant and anytime a bug bites into the plant it is killed. This is very important for bees because this chemical has been linked directly to bee deaths. Maryland has banned the chemical and starting January 2018 it will not be allowed in homes and gardens. It was reported that 30% of the American honey bee population died this last winter and neonicotinoids is the culprit.

Many entomologists have been recorded stating that an outright ban on neonicotinoids is not the correct route but instead a reduction would still assist with bug control without bee deaths. To explain further, instead of having every seed treated with neonicotinoids we could treat every 4th seed.

Parasites

Varroa Mites are the primary parasite killing off bees now. They were once very rary but recently have become more popular. This mite kills the bee through two methods. The first is by draining the bee of their fluids which makes them weak, sometimes leading to death. The second is by leaving open wounds that can become infected. The lack of fluids decreases their immune system and with the increased infections they die.

Death by Transport

You may think it’s odd that this is on the list but death by transport is the leading cause of bee death. It is common practice for bee keepers to rent out their beehives to orchards across the country during the warm summer months. This practice forces bee keepers to place their beehives in trucks and ship them across country to various locations. Using this information, let’s give you a few cases to put this into perspective.

In 2013 a transport truck carrying 20 million bees flipped on Highway 33 in eastern Idaho. Unfortunately the bees were released upon impact and ultimately killed. The bee keepers gave authorization to kill the bees due to “their fierce swarming pattern”. 20 million bees killed in one event.

A few days before this accident another truck crashed on Highway 90, releasing 4 million bees. All bees were killed after first responders were stung repeatedly on site.

In 2015, 13 million bees were released in Seattle after an accident on Interstate 5. Some of the bees were recovered while the rest were killed.

That same year we saw another accident in Wisconsin that resulted in 1 million bees being released. A quarter of the bees were saved while the others were killed.

Our last example comes from an accident in California that resulted in 25 million bees being released on Interstate 10. Most of the bees were saved but 3.6 million were killed.

Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD)

Colony Collapse Disorder is a very scary disorder that causes millions of deaths each year. In 2013 one study attributed 10 million beehive deaths ($2 billion total) within six years to CCD. Many scientists attribute this phenomenon to a mixture of pesticides and fungicides but nothing has been completely confirmed. CCD ultimately leaves a hive with nothing. The swarm vanishes without leaving any dead bodies and all that remains is the queen, her larvae, and a couple nurse bees to care for the larvae.

Most of the other information has already been covered in prior sections.

Our Pesticides (Misting System and Yard Treatment)

At Tactical we use three products in our treatments. Your misting system sprays a product called Sector. This is an “on kill” product that is only active while it is airborne. If a bee (or any other bug) meets the pesticide while it is in the air it has a possibility of killing it. The molecule size must be correct to kill it but for the sake of argument we’ll say it’s the correct size. This means that the only way a misting system kills bees is if a bee is in your yard (or around a nozzle) while the system is dispensing (there is absolutely no residual for this product, it hits the ground and it’s dead). This is hard to do when our systems are not set to go off between 6 am and 6 pm – prime flying time of bees.

The second and third product are dispensed by our backpack sprayer during yard treatments. We use Nyguard and Talstar to treat your yard. Nyguard is a growth regulator and Talstar is a residual-based killing agent. Nyguard can affect bees but it must be properly transmitted back to the larva which then keeps them from pupating. This means the bee must pick up the product and take it back to the hive. Talstar is a residual kill which means if the bee lands on the product it will kill it.

All our products can kill bees but it is up to the system owner to ensure they don’t kill the bees in their yard. While doing yard treatments we stay away from budded flowers to reduce bee deaths. Of all the methods mentioned above, our products add up to the least number of bee deaths annually.

Final Note

As a final note, some sources have the total honeybee hive count around 80 million. Each hive has about 50,000 bees which puts our total bee count at 4 trillion.

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