The Buzz on Honey Bees, Pesticides & Property Maintenance


Those bees that sometimes buzz around the pool area or outside apartment windows may appear to be an inconvenience to residents, but property owners need to think twice before getting out the swatter or planning a pesticide assault.

It’s believed that bees pollinate around a third of the food we eat, and that they are crucial to sustaining the world food chain. Bees are excellent pollinators for many of the plants that bear fruits, nuts and vegetables that humans consume daily. Thank a bee when you take a bite of that cucumber salad at your next apartment conference.

But honey bees are vanishing from hives. There is no clear conclusion on the cause of the disappearance but a 2012 report from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) suggests factors may include “disease, arthropod pests (parasitic mites), pesticides, poor nutrition and beekeeping practices.” They identified the varroa mite as “the single most detrimental pest of honey bees and can magnify the role of viruses.” About one-third of all honey bee colonies in the U.S. are gone, and beekeepers and environmentalists are concerned.

Recent instances where bees were found to be killed by pesticide treatments have raised awareness that that these little food generators could be destroyed when aiming that sprayer. During the summer, some 25,000-50,000 bees and other insects were killed in Oregon after being exposed to neonicotinoid, a commonly used pesticide. That incident was followed by the loss of thousands of bees near Minneapolis in September because of exposure to fipronil, another pesticide.

Even though winter is under way in much of the country and pollination has slowed, bees are still at work in warmer climates. They will certainly be back next spring dropping pollen grains to enable fertilization and plant reproduction.

Proper Use of Pesticides Can Save the Hive

In the meantime, the National Pest Management Association (NPMA) is taking action to inform industry professionals and the general public that special care should be taken during treatment for other pests at residences and businesses.

“Pollinators play essential role in our food supply chain,” said Missy Henriksen, NPMA’s vice president of public affairs. “We are working with government agencies to make sure we have effective tools to enable for the treatment of insects and also do it in a manner that allows pollinators to survive.”

As with any treatment, NPMA advises that all labels be read and that more is not necessarily better. Certain products should not be applied when bees are present or expected to visit the treatment area, or if the applied product may drift outside the treatment area.

Henriksen said that efforts are under way with the government to make label changes on pesticides that specifically address product use where bees are present. The new labels could be out by the spring.

Finding Harmony with Honey Bees around Your Property

While bees are essential to pollination, they do pose a health and safety risk to the public. About 500,000 people every year require medical treatment for bee stings, a leading cause of anaphylaxes-related deaths in the U.S.

Swarms of Africanized “Killer Bees” have grabbed headlines and triggered some governments to declare them a public safety hazard.

The challenge, says Henriksen, is to find harmony between man and bee so that food supplies don’t suffer. Bee interactions with pesticides have been a topic of concern for some time, but it’s festering because of recent events in Oregon and Minnesota.

“It’s been an important issue for years, but events recently have catapulted pollinators to the top of many agencies’ agendas,” she said. “Certainly, it’s a top priority for our industry as well, and we want to make sure the public is protected, but also that our society has an effective channel of pollinators so they can do their job.”

Property Managers Can Contribute to Honey Bee Preservation

Apartments can be proactive by consulting with their pest control providers on treatments that will not affect bees.

NPMA says it’s extremely important that the applicator know the potential pesticide toxicity to bees for the products that are being used. And, of course, that the applicator read, understand and follow labels prior to treating the area.

Your’s and your residents’ next meal may depend on it.


Image: ShutterStock



Contributing Editor, Property Management Insider
President, Ballpark Impressions, LLC

author photo two

Tim Blackwell is a long-time publishing and printing executive in the Dallas/Fort Worth area who writes about the multifamily housing and transportation industries. He has contributed numerous articles to Property Management Insider, and worked as a newspaper reporter in the D/FW area. Blackwell is president of Ballpark Impressions, and publishes the Cowcatcher Magazine. He is a member of the Fort Worth Chapter/Society of Professional Journalists.

2 responses to “The Buzz on Honey Bees, Pesticides & Property Maintenance”

  1. Dan says:

    Great piece Tim. This information is highly important at many levels. I have heard comments regarding the potential cost of strawberries without immigrant workers. I wonder what the cost of an apple would be should we require an army of humans to pollinate our orchards and fields… Additionally, yes, the use of pesticides on site is an area that deserves focus. A sustainable community will certainly wish to understand the use of harmful chemicals used on site as there are high quality alternatives to products that can potentially harm the environment and residents. Thank you for bringing this reminder to my inbox and the industry.

  2. Keith says:

    “It’s believed that bees pollinate around a third of the food we eat, and that they are crucial to sustaining the world food chain.”

    Great quote, and good article on ways we can all become more educated about the roll bees play in our daily lives and property management.

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