Homeowners Urged to Use Insecticides Carefully to Protect Bees

May 14th, 2013

AMES, Iowa — The careful use of insecticides by homeowners will help minimize ill effects on honeybee populations, according to Iowa State University Extension and Outreach entomologist Laura Jesse.

A U.S. Department of Agriculture and Environmental Protection Agency report released recently outlined several possible causes of national decline in honeybees, including habitat loss, poor diet, diseases, parasites and pesticide exposure. Research points to a combination of these factors that may be responsible for the 30 percent decline in honeybees annually since 2006.

“One recurring piece of this puzzle is the role of neonicotinoid insecticides,” said Donald Lewis, Iowa State professor of entomology.

There has been a focus on the use of neonicotinoids in agriculture, but homeowners also need to be aware that neonicotinoids are also widely available and used in the home landscape. Neonicotinoids are systemic, becoming part of the plant’s tissue, so pollinators can be exposed to the chemical in pollen and nectar even when they are applied when plants are not blooming. 

The neonicotinoid most widely available to homeowners is imidacloprid, with brand names including Merit; Bayer Advanced 12 Month Tree & Shrub Insect Control; Bayer Advanced 3-in-1 Insect, Disease & Mite Control; Bonide Annual Grub Beater; Ortho Max Tree & Shrub Insect Control; and Premise.

An article in the latest issue of Horticulture and Home Pest News has specific recommendations for using the pesticide at: http://www.ipm.iastate.edu/ipm/hortnews/2013/05-10/bees.html 

“Before you use any insecticide, including neonicotinoids, evaluate if it is necessary,” Jesse said. “Is the damage already done, will treating improve the health of the plant, or is the damage cosmetic? Will treating potentially harm pollinators or other beneficial insects? Are there other things you could do to reduce damage by the insect pests? We advise using Integrate Pest Management practices (http://ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/2000/pdf/2205.pdf) to reduce pest problems and pesticides in your yard and garden.” 

The ISU Integrated Pest Management web site (http://www.ipm.iastate.edu/ipm/info/insects) provides photos and management information of insect pests. 

More help in identifying insect pests is available from the Iowa State Plant and Insect Diagnostic Clinic (http://www.ent.iastate.edu/pidc/). You may also submit insect and plant samples to determine causes and solutions to problems.


Laura Jesse, Plant and Insect Diagnostic Clinic, (515) 294-0581, ljesse@iastate.edu
Donald Lewis, Entomology, (515) 294-1101, drlewis@iastate.edu
Ed Adcock, Agriculture and Life Sciences Communication Service, (515) 294-2314, edadcock@iastate.edu