It’s hard out there for a bee. Although you can do everything in your power to create a safe environment for your bees in your yard, you can’t always control the actions of your neighbors. As bees will fly for miles to forage, your ability to completely protect them from exposure to potentially harmful chemicals is limited. But that doesn’t mean you can’t do your best to limit their exposure, while educating your neighbors to the importance of pollinating insects at the same time. We at Beepods have seen success implementing these simple steps. I highly recommend checking with your neighbors, local groundskeepers, and neighboring farms, and trying to institute the following policies:
The most important thing to remember is that people don’t want to harm bees. Approaching with an informational, non-combative attitude is everything. Leave information for them about alternatives to spraying, the importance of bees, beneficial plants, etc. People don’t like being told what to do, but we find educating about dangers and offering alternatives produces change. Most people have no idea that the products they use are potentially harmful, as they are commonly sold in most garden stores. Likewise, most people want to do what they can to help the bees, even if they don’t want to become a beekeeper. We’ve seen neighbors cease use of insecticides and plant bee friendly flowers upon finding out their neighbors have bees. Sometimes change is easier than you think.
If your neighbors feel like spraying in some instances is necessary, there are still measures you can take to protect your bees. Ask your neighbors to make a good faith effort inform you at least a day prior to spraying so that you may take precautions. Leave contact information with them and hope for a call. When contacting them, ask what chemicals they are using, and when they use them.
The best way to protect your bees from exposure is to keep them inside the hive on days when spraying occurs. Ask your neighbors to spray as early in the day as possible so the bees won’t be cooped up all day. Pesticides are most dangerous to bees when they are sprayed directly on the bees, and when they are still wet. Many of our golf course beekeepers actually spray at night, so it dries by the time the bees are flying around.
The night before the spraying is to occur, after the bees are all back in the hive, you will plug up all the holes and tape up or close off the vented areas. This includes closing the vent on the bottom of the hive, and taping up the lid line. Once the pesticides have dried, generally mid-morning when sprayed in the morning, you can remove the tape and plugs and let the bees out. If it looks like it will be a very hot day, open the hive earlier, as the bees can overheat.
Exposure is still exposure, but attempting to limit the exposure can’t hurt, and may make all the difference. Likewise, providing alternatives to chemicals, even if not adopted immediately, will generally result in a more judicious use of them. Like I said, no one is deliberately trying to hurt the bees. Change is possible, and often starts with a dialogue.
Excellent PDF: NAPPC Pesticide Brochure (2010)