Nebraskans are urged to be careful about killing honeybees as we tend to our plants this spring.
Entomologist Laura Jesse says insecticides were mentioned in a recent report about the nationwide decline in honeybee populations. Jesse says it’s hard to protect bees while trying to get rid of garden pests.
“Bees are insects and yet we have insect pests, so insecticides in general will harm bees. One class of insecticides that we’re concerned about right now is a class called neonicotinoids,” Jesse says.
She says this class of insecticides is very toxic to bees.
“With most of our spray insecticides where you’ve got caterpillars, aphids and things, you spray it on and it dries. As long as you aren’t treating the plant when it’s flowering you are very unlikely to harm pollinating insects,” Jesse explains. “Whereas with the systemic insecticides you can be putting it on long before the plant flowers and the insecticide is in the pollen and nectar. And we don’t know how much is in the pollen and nectar and for how long.”
Jesse says don’t use insecticides as a first choice.
“The first step is kind of look — there are still insects here it might be worth treating — and then consider other options. In the case of aphids, you can often blast a lot of them off with a hose and then come back with maybe a soap-based insecticide,” Jesse says.
She says always go through the other options before you move in with insecticides. Sometimes people miss the window to treat the insects that have done the damage, but spray anyway.
“We call it a revenge spray, where you spray after the damage is done.” That’s wasteful and can also wipe out beneficial bees.