Protecting Bees from Pesticides

OSU updates resources for protecting bees from pesticides

        October 15, 2013     


Honey bees climb across a honeycomb. (Photo by Lynn Ketchum)  
Honey bees climb across a honeycomb covered with almond flower pollen. (Photo by Lynn Ketchum)  

CORVALLIS, Ore. – As the worldwide population of honey bees continues to decline, the Oregon State University Extension Service and partners have updated a tool for Pacific Northwest growers and beekeepers to reduce the impacts of pesticides on bees.

The revision of OSU Extension’s publication appears after an estimated 50,000 bumble bees died in a Wilsonville parking lot in June. The Oregon Department of Agriculture confirmed in a June 21 statement that the bee deaths were directly related to a pesticide application on linden trees conducted to control aphids. The episode prompted the ODA to issue a six-month restriction on 18 insecticides containing the active ingredient dinotefuran.

OSU researchers are investigating the effects of broad-spectrum neonicotinoids, such as dinotefuran, on native bees. The work is in progress, according to Ramesh Sagili, an OSU honeybee specialist.

The newly revised publication “How to Reduce Bee Poisoning from Pesticides” includes the latest research and regulations. Lead authors include Sagili and OSU toxicologist Louisa Hooven. Download the updated version for free online at How to Reduce Bee Poisoning form Pesticides (pdf). 

“More than 60,000 honey bee colonies pollinate about 50 different crops in Oregon, including blueberries, cherries, pear, apple, clover, meadowfoam and carrot seed,” Sagili said. “Without honey bees, you lose an industry worth nearly $500 million from sales of the crops they commercially pollinate.”

Nationally, honey bees pollinated about $11.68 billion worth of crops in 2009, according to a 2010 study on the economic value of insect pollinators by Cornell University.

Growers, commercial beekeepers and pesticide applicators in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and California will find the publication useful, Sagili said. An expanded color-coded chart details active ingredients and trade names of more than 100 conventional and organic pesticides, including toxicity levels to bees and precautions for use.

The publication also describes residual toxicity periods for several pesticides that remain effective for extended periods after they are applied. Additionally, the guide explains how to investigate and report suspected bee poisonings.

Nationwide, honey bee colonies have been declining in recent years due to several factors, including mites, viruses transmitted by mites, malnutrition and improper use of pesticides, Sagili said. In Oregon, about 22 percent of commercial honey bee colonies were lost during the winter of 2012-13, Sagili said. There has been a gradual, sustained decline of managed honey bees since the peak of 5.9 million colonies in 1947, according to the Cornell study. The number of managed colonies reached a low of 2.3 million in 2008, although there were increases in 2009 and 2010, the study said.  

“Growers and beekeepers can work together with this practical document in hand,” Sagili said of OSU Extension’s publication. “It gives them informative choices.”

For example, when commercial beekeeper Harry Vanderpool needed to advise a pear grower on whether an insecticide was acceptable to use around bees, he turned to OSU Extension’s publication.  

“That manual has been a blessing,” said Vanderpool, who keeps 400 hives in South Salem to pollinate dozens of crops for growers from California to central Oregon. “It’s a tool that helps beekeepers and farmers work together in the right way with the right chemical rather than us telling farmers how to farm or farmers telling beekeepers how to keep bees.”

You can also find OSU’s publication by searching for PNW 591-E in OSU Extension’s catalog at The publication was produced in cooperation with OSU, Washington State University and the University of Idaho.


Author:          Denise Ruttan     


Source:          Ramesh Sagili, Louisa Hooven     



Contemplating Keeping Bees.

Langstroth-Hive-Parts”>top bar hive

Image, We’re striving for self sufficiency in every sense of the word. That means getting off grid, producing our own food, getting completely out of debt and the list goes on and on. I’ve been studying beekeeping and have my own fears about bees, but I know that honey is probably one of the most natural antibiotic, antiviral, antifungal, wound healing, allergy healing and downright good tasting foods available. Bees are livestock and should be treated as such. Am I afraid of bees? Absolutely. It’s a learning curve that I need to conquer before we put in hives. I keep an epi-pen with me at all times, just because I am sensitive to bee bites. It’s been awhile since I’ve actually been stung, but a bite will make whelps on my skin as big as silver dollars. Yet. I walked out to a couple of beehives with my adopted dad, and his bees were passive, landed on me, tasted the salt on my skin and flew away.  As I wrote to a friend who has raised bees for decades, this is what he shared with me.

“Top bar hives are common in third world countries and have some fiercely devoted advocates in the United States too. But, as one who has had both, it takes more skill to run top bar hives than the conventional equipment. the modern hive developed by Rev. Langstroth and since fine-tuned by generations of beekeepers, has greatly simplified beekeeping efforts.

If you are desperately poor-and have a fine mentor, you might do better with top bar hives. But, I recommend that new beekeepers start off with conventional equipment if at all possible. when you come experienced with it, and want to go back to primitive equipment, then by all means, go for it.

As sources for up-to-date beekeeping references, I suggest you check out “Bee Culture” magazine and editor Kim Flottum’s blog.  Also check out Keith Delaplane. Both are incredible experts and the best at presenting modern beekeeping worldwide. They can be found doing a Google search.

If you are deathly afraid of bees, this may not be for you. The first hurdle is to get over the fear of bees. You WILL get stung from time to time, even if you dress up in a spacesuit. It’s a fact. You will “cook” in a spacesuit, so why not accept that an occasional sting will not kill you and dress to enjoy the work.

A bee veil and some tan Dickies will do the job for most people as far as dress. if the bees are testy on a certain day, the hobbyist has the option to wait for another day to do hive work. If the bees are always testy, re-queen the bee to a better line of worker bees.

And, I believe there are some mild benefits to an occasional sting.  It tunes up your immune system and helps fight against autoimmune diseases like arthritis.

It’s far better to start with two hives rather than one.  Get your hives ready and get your bees early, like in the last week of March in the South and no later than early May in the north so the bees can get established.

Think of your starter hives as baby animals. You are going to have to feed them until they can feed themselves.

And, learn the ropes before you jump into it. Some people think they can get bees, park them in an out of the way place and forget about them until it’s time to do an occasional “robbing” of honey.

Now, if you rob the bees of their honey, they will starve to death, so learn how to harvest a surplus instead.  Learn the ways of good bee husbandry. You would not buy cattle and not expect to learn to care. The Scriptures say that a Godly man is kind to his beasts.

Bees have diseases and parasites that must be dealt with. A neighbor, or a community mosquito spraying can poison your bees (and all the wild pollinators as well). You need to know how to protect them from the use of pesticides in the area.

If your bees do well in spite of neglect, they will blow off swarms in the spring, which will likely irritate your neighbors (especially when the bees take up residence in their house walls), and it will be a devastating loss to you. You wouldn’t raise cattle and let your calves run off. Good swarm management is critical. 

I highly recommend getting into a good local bee club. Find who are the best beekeepers and get a local mentor.

Beekeeping is a wonderful hobby and you will get more benefits from pollination than you do from the honey.

Just be sure that it’s right for you. Just as some people should not have pets or livestock, some people should not have bees. If you are going to do it, do it right. Otherwise, try to attract a beekeeper to your neighborhood to get your garden pollinated.

Dave ” 

Here are several resources to check out:  Top bar hive plan  great beekeeping magazine