My hive is set up and ready to receive my bees. The spot is fairly shady, hence the grass doesn’t get long here which should help keep the entrance clear and not have to fiddle disturbing them to keep grass and weeds down. I’m getting my bees from Buster’s Bees. You can visit his site and see the environment that his bees are raised in. He has a a big pond where his bees live. I have a drainage ditch, which drains into a large pond about 100 yards away, back in the woods. There is standing water in the ditch, especially where the water drains from a culvert.
Two weeks ago, I saw a lot of honeybees working one of my peach trees that was the first tree in my neighborhood to bloom. I was excited to see so many since I have so rarely seen honeybees around in the 15 years we’ve lived here. But today I did not see any honeybees. I saw mostly these guys who have been my main pollinators..
The bumblebees have been out in force this week and I have to give them credit. They tend to be less fussy about how bright the sun is shining compared to honeybee activity. However, unlike the honeybee, they don’t always stick to one sort of plant. They’ll go from the peach to a plum tree on a whim, whereas the hooneybees tend to work one sort at a time, making them more efficient pollinators of my stuff.
While I was replacing some of my frames, I also had another visitor who was a lot less camera shy:
Wasps and hornet and yellowjackets are the most notorious stingers, but they have their place when it comes to both pollination and pest control. Speaking of pest control…
Today I was getting ready to plant a raspberry bush in amongst the blackberries in hopes of getting a new and different crop of berries this year.
I bought this from our neighborhood Home Depot. As I removed the plant from the pot, a lottle plastic tag slipped put. And this is what I saw:
It’s hard to read so let me retype what is on the front of the tag with the lovely green foliage:
This plant is protected from problematic aphids, white flies, beetles, mealy bugs and other unwanted pests by Neonicotinoids.
Here’s the reverse side
Treated with Neonicotinoids
These pesticides are approved by the EPA
For more info please visit us at:
So I typed in that address and got an error msg. With a little more snooping, I found this page (http://www.ecooptions.homedepot.com/healthy-home/organic-gardening/) which seems to be an attempt at addressing the my concern.
For those not in the know (which is most people in the country) these chemicals that are more commonly called “neonics” (and infinitely easier to spell and pronounce) and are usually found in treated seeds. The seeds take in and ingest this pesticide which then turns into a broad spectrum insecticide that enables the plant to defend against those insects that are listed on the label plus a lot more “unwanted pests”.
I’ll give you two different views of this pesticide:
Here from the makers of the pesticide, Bayer (yeah, the guys who came up with aspirin!)
They affect insects and not mammals or birds (unlike previous generations of insecticides) and so were lauded as a very eco-friendly way to help preserve and protect our food supply.
I have several problems with introducing this chemical into my backyard. I’m not coming from an entirely ignorant perspective, as I did graduate from Iowa State University with a degree in agriculture education. And I did take a course in entomology where we learned about the perils and pitfalls of broad spectrum insecticides. But when I was in school, neonics hadn’t been invented yet. So maybe I’m just partially ignorant.
The major peril, is that any broad spectrum insecticide has two very undesirable side effects. These are two effects that simply can not be avoided, especially by the broad spectrum– the ones that treat all bugs the same way.
1. Eventually the bugs develop resistance. And there are already cases of this happening with the neonics. This resistance requires either applying higher and more lethal doses or finding something else that is lethal to the offending insects.
2. It is non-selective. That means that the insecticide can’t tell the difference between a harmful insect and a good insect. Which is the thing that upsets beekeepers about insecticides in general.
You can see a nice list of the difference between broad and narrow spectrum insecticides here. The take-away is that you want a narrow insecticide that does not affect natural enemies of the insect you are trying to control. Neonics are a class of insecticide that actually falls all along this spectrum, depending on the specific sort and how it is applied, whether sprayed, treated on the seed or treated in the soil. When I see it controlling beetles, white flies and aphids and “other unwanted pests” this raises a huge red flag for me but I am going on the extreme side of caution. Basically, it is aimed at pests that suck the juice out of plants or eat its leaves. Bees don’t do either of those things, but they DO consume the pollen and nectar which is a sort of plant juice. Bees also have a much more highly evolved (thus fragile) neural system than many other insects. So while it might not kill them, it can still hurt them.
So what can a body do that wants to protect both the bees and their plants? The answer may suprise you.
When you buy a plant from Home Depot, at least they do include a tag that says they are using this stuff
What angered me about my raspberry purchase was that I did not see any of those little tags until I had already paid the money and taken it home. I drove me and my plant back to the store today, but when I got there the tags were in abundance although sometimes obscured. I don’t remember seeing them when I bought my plant a week ago, but I hadn’t even thought to look. So I couldn’t accuse the store of deliberately trying to con me as I would not have bought this thing. Returning posed a bit a bit of a dilemma. Sure, I might get my money back, but the plant might still find its way back into a neighbor’s yard. So I ended up tossing it. But even the guy at our recycling place had issues with this idea of disposing the thing. (Note to self: bag anything you intend on getting rid of)
I took a trip to Wal-Mart to look at their plants, just to see how they would purvey this evil upon us. Would they have the little tags or would they deliberately omit any information about pesticide use? I kind of expect Wal-Mart to be evil because for the most part they seem to have been branded that way by most of the public, especially their employees.
Walmart did not have any tags specifying how their plants are sprayed/treated or not. However, Wal-Mart did have something Home Depot didn’t. They had tags on all of their pots, specifying which nursery the plant came from.
This is one of many different nurseries used by Wal-Mart. You can click the link to learn all about them and they do have some sort of Veriflora certification. I couldn’t find much information about where this particular certification standard stands as far as the use of neonics. However, to their credit, Wal-Mart does at least provide some mechanism for a consumer wanting to do due diligence.
I do understand the need for pesticides when you want to raise any sort of plant (or animal) on any kind of scale. But any sort of battle against bugs should be done in a way that is sustainable– meaning that you can use it over a long period of time without killing yourself or what you are growing. Killing bees is the same as killing ourselves unless you want to live on a 3rd world diet devoid of fruits, vegetables or nuts. Or honey.
My bees are probably a lot more likely to die from mites and my neglect than a neonic-laden flower, but I have berries, fruits and trees that are NOT treated with anything, and they all do fairly well. With more efficient pollination, I can get more fruit and actually tolerate more pests. But without bees, I get nothing. So while I’m okay with taking risks, I’m not okay with taking risks needlessly. I’ll find some other way to introduce raspberries into my backyard, preferably without introducing poisons to my introduced (and native) bees.