Pesticides and Decline in Pollinators Video

See this short video on some of the threats to the bee population and what you can do to help them:

Pledge to Promote Bee Populations

Organic Farming & Integrated Pest Management – How they Limit Pesticide Use

What is Organic Farming?

Organic Farming systems try to minimize off farm input (which can include fertilizers, and pesticides). It also frequently employs various pest management tactics (IPM) which do not involve pesticides. Genetically modified crops (GMO) are not used in organic farming. Soil fertility is maintained through crop rotations (which employ nitrogen-fixing legumes), and these can also have pest-management benefits.

Benefits of Organic Farming to Pollinators

A Swedish study found that organic farming had better pollination. The crop they used to measure this was Strawberries and the study included 12 farms. Farms were grouped into 3 categories: Established Organic Farms, New Organic Farms, & Conventional Farms. New organic farms showed the same amount of pollination success as established farms and both had greater success than conventional farms.

Integrated Pest Management (IPM)

IPM is a system of pest management that employs several pest management tactics (mulching, natural enemies etc.). Some pest damage is considered acceptable and there is an economic threshold above which the damage warrants action. Pesticides are considered a last resort and there are restrictions on which ones can be used.

IPM Pesticides
Qualities of a Good IPM Pesticide

  1. Selective: Only affects intended target or a narrow range of things.
  2. Not Persistent: Does not linger in the environment for a long time.
  3. Minimal Environmental Impact

Unacceptable Pesticides

  • Pyrethroid Insecticides or Acaricides
  • Organochlorine Insecticides & Acaricides (if safer alternatives exist)
  • All Acaricides that are toxic to Phytoseiid Mites
  • Toxic, water-polluting or very persistent Herbicides

Pesticides Allowed with Restrictions (When no safer alternatives exist)

  • Broad Spectrum Organo-Phosphate & Carbamate Insecticides
  • Acaricides harmful to Phytoseiid Mites
  • Dithiocarbamate Fungicides
  • Sulfur & Copper
  • Fungicides with high potential for resistance

Creating Suitable Habitats for Bees and Promoting Native Plant Species

Honey bees have received a lot of attention in the media lately, and their decline is a great cause of concern for agriculturists, beekeepers, and the pollinator dependent environment at large. However, native pollinators such as butterflies, birds, bats, native bee species, and other insects are at risk from pesticide usage and a decline in suitable habitat as well. There are more than 4,000 species of bees native to North America, with over 300 found in Pennsylvania. Unlike honey bees, which are found predominantly in managed bee houses, most bee species live in the ground, or in dead wood, and crevices between rocks.

Guidelines for providing natural, native bee nesting sites. Different native bee species will utilize different habitat types, and a variety of possibilities should be offered to attract a variety of bees.

  • Small areas of bare ground surrounded by weedy vegetation
  • Well drained soil on flat or sloping surfaces
  • Dry, dead wood with holes from beetles or other burrowing species
  • mounds of sandy soil
  • well drained soil protected by loose networks of sticks and brush
  • all nesting areas should be within range of foraging habitat (native flowering plants)


Active Sweat Bee Burrow (Just Missed Him) – Ryan Fantasia

 


Potential Nesting Site: Area frequented by bumblebees – Ryan Fantasia

Wood pile by compost and Exposed Weedy Area: Frequented By a
number of bee species (they seem to enjoy the aluminum ladder too) –
Ryan Fantasia

Some bee species that tend to be more colonial than solitary, like some bumblebee species, will also inhabit home-made bee boxes.

The Xerces Society offers a number of guidelines for maintaining and creating your own nesting sites in this fact sheet: Nests for Native Bees
Pollinator Friendly Lawns

Lush green lawns consisting of just one species of turf grass may look great to humans, but they offer little or no benefit to most bee species. Bare spots encourage nesting habitats for ground dwelling bees, and the flowerless lawn does not provide much of a food source for any bee species.

Some tips for making your lawn more pollinator friendly:

  • Use mixed grass seeds with species such as clover, trefoil, and other low growing, flowering ground cover
  • Eliminate use of conventional grub and insect control chemicals such as pyrethroids and imidacloprid (see the active ingredients in your pesticides and fertilizers!)
  • allow flowering weeds to flourish (they cover your lawn just as well as turf grass does)
  • keep some areas “low traffic” to minimize disruption of ground nesting bees

Native Perennial Flowering Species

In addition to adding clover and other low growing plants to lawns, another solution is to cut back on your lawn area altogether. Native flowering plant species are an excellent source of nourishment and habitat for pollinators and other native insects that can keep pests at bay, and trading some lawn area or exotic flowers for a bed of native perennials can provide greater aesthetic and ecological value to your property.

Planting native species helps to ensure that your work will not go to waste, as they are well adapted to the conditions in your area. Most bee populations have evolved with the native flora, and sometimes one plant species is dependent almost exclusively on a certain bee species, and vice versa.

 

Check out Northeast Natives and Perennials to purchase native species for your yard, right here in Haycock Twp!

 

The Xerces Society For Invertebrate Conservation offers information on Flowering Species and other resources for promoting bee habitats through their Pollinator Conservation Resource Center Website: http://www.xerces.org/pollinator-resource-center/

 

Through partnerships with the native seed industry, Xerces also offers seed mixes for native wildflowers and grasses that promote pollinator habitat: http://www.xerces.org/pollinator-seed/

 

Information on pollinator attracting plant species native to specific regions available through: Local USDA Cooperative Extensions: http://www.csrees.usda.gov/Extension/

 

Native Flower Bearing Plants For Native Bee Species – PA and NJ

Penn State University. (2009). Agroecology in Practice: Conserving Wild Bees in Pennsylvania.

Full Fact Sheet available at: http://pubs.cas.psu.edu/FreePubs/pdfs/uf023.pdf

 

 


✝ The USDA-NRCS plants database lists Crisium discolor, a native field thistle, as potentially weedy or invasive. Though you should not encourage large populations, it is a valuable pollinator foraging resource and can be managed as such. Its seeds are not commercially available.
Photograph Credits: Elaine Haug @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database (Lobelia spicata, Asclepias syriaca, Pycnanthemum tenuifolium) Patrick J. Alexander @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database (Apocynum cannabinum) Jeff McMillian @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database (Erigeron strigosus, Prunella vulgaris Jim Stasz @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database (Scutellaria integrifolia, Verbena hastata) Seabrooke Leckie (Solidago odora) Thomas Barnes (University of Kentucky) @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS (Agalinis purpurea, Cirsium discolor) William Justice @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS (Vernonia noveboracensis) Janet Novak @ Connecticut Botanical Society (Eupatorium maculatum) Robert H. Mohlenbrock @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database (Euthamia graminifolia) http://www.botanik.uni-karlsruhe.de/garten/fotos-hassler/ (Potentilla norvegica)
Bryn Mawr College and Rutgers University. (May 2009). Native Bee Benefits for Pennsylvania and New Jersey Farmers. Pg 6
Full fact-sheet available at: www.xerces.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/pa-nj-native-bee-benefits1.pdf

Preventative Methods Against Insects and Weeds: “Cultural Controls”

Mixing up Lawn-care Practices

Planting a combination of tradition turf grasses and other low growing species like clover, rye grass, and trefoil can make lawn maintenance a much more simple, low input task. The roots of clover and trefoil species (legumes) are home to beneficial microbes that have the ability to fix nitrogen, that is, to fertilize your lawn naturally and reduce the need for high nitrogen fertilizers. Adding some variety with these plants which are commonly considered “weeds” can help to minimize groundwater pollution from excess fertilizer use, and also provides a better home and food source for bees and other beneficial insects.

A mixed bag of plant species also means less susceptibility to many common pests of turfgrass, such as the infamous soil dwelling “white grubs” and other insect larvae that may hurt your lawn and be destructive in their adult forms. Limiting the use of high nitrogen fertilizers and making use of the fertilizing properties of nitrogen fixing plants can allow your grass to devote more of its energy and nutrients to developing a robust root system, which makes a less desirable habitat for many of these soil dwelling pests, and cuts down on the need to use traditional, harmful insecticides to keep the bugs at bay. A mixed lawn can also be more effective at crowding out undesired weeds than a bed of single seed turf grasses.

Other methods that can be employed to reduce the risk of weed and grub infestation in the lawn, and limit dependence on chemicals include:

  • Mowing higher and less frequently to decrease the amount of exposed soil
  • Watering less frequently (~once a week), but thoroughly and deeply to ensure strong root growth, and avoiding watering when precipitation provides sufficient water supply
  • “Over-seeding” lawns with mixed seeds in early spring or fall to reduce bare spots
  • Leaving a portion of grass clippings on the lawn to decompose and maintain balanced, steady nutrient levels

Mulching and Sheeting (Weed Barriers)

Aside from providing a clean and appealing look for flower beds and gardens, proper mulching around plants can:

  • Return organic nutrients to the soil
  • Prevent implantation of weeds
  • Help retain moisture in soil
  • Keep soil cool

Some environmentally friendly mulches to help prevent weed growth and eliminate herbicide use in your garden:

  • Brush, wood-chips, and sticks from around the yard (makes use of material that would be otherwise disposed of, NO COST)
  • Pine needles/straw and pine bark
  • Cocoa shell mulch (by-product of cocoa manufacturing, insect repellent properties, WARNING: Poisonous to Dogs)
  • Agricultural by-products (peanut shells, corn husks, etc)

Weed barriers are sheets that can be applied below mulch, around plants, to keep weeds from gaining a root foothold. Common weed barriers are made of plastics, but biodegradable materials such as old newspapers, and recycled cardboard sheets available commercially do the job quite well.

Companion Planting to Deter Insects

Many plants, specifically aromatic herbs, can be planted along with garden vegetables in order to deter pest insects including mosquitoes, flies, fleas, ticks, caterpillars, Japanese beetles, and others including:

  • Broadleaf sage (also covers ground area to limit weed growth)
  • Lavender
  • Basil
  • Oregano
  • Rosemary
  • Parsley
  • Mint / Catnip
  • Thyme

Home Remedies for Insecticides and Herbicides

There are many popular home remedies for dealing with pest weeds and insects that are often times safer than their chemical alternatives.

Home Brew Insecticides

Garlic, Onion, and Pepper sprays prepared at home often times work as a wonderful insect repellent for gardens and flowerbeds, since leaf consuming insects do not find the mixture palatable and tend to stay away. Recipes vary by personal preference, but general guidelines suggest using the following:

  • A few cloves of garlic (finely chopped)
  • A small onion (finely chopped)
  • 1 tsp of hot pepper, or fresh chopped hot pepper
  • ~1 qt warm water
  • Allow the mixture to steep in a mason jar or container for up to two days, strain through a coffee filter or cheesecloth, and apply with a spray bottle to leafy surfaces and stems of garden plants

Some recipes choose to include a few teaspoons liquid hand soap (potassium salts of fatty acids) to the mixture, but this can be harmful to some beneficial insects and sometimes the plant surfaces themselves, especially if the wrong kind of soap is used. Added benefits of including the soap include death to soft bodied pests, and more staying power on the plant surface. Spray concoctions without the soap need to be applied fairly regularly, especially after rain, to remain effective.

 
Oil Based Home Remedies

Other home remedies suggest using vegetable oils mixed with water, and garlic or hot pepper, however these treatments offer many of the downsides that the soaps do, depending on the situation.

 
Beer and Slugs

A common home method for dealing with slugs in the garden is to use beer in the corners of yards or around problem areas to attract the slugs and drown them. Some guidelines for using beer as a safe alternative to commercial pesticides:

  • Partially bury a wide, open container so that the rim lays near the ground surface
  • Add liquid hand soap to improve effectiveness when slugs contact the beer
  • Prop up a small cover above the container to reduce dilution by rainwater, with ample room for the slugs to enter underneath

Other effective methods for “slugicide” include dilute alcohol sprays, salt, or removal by hand.

 

Home Brew Herbicides

Common alternatives to synthetic herbicides like Roundup for weed killing include:

  • Equal parts water and vinegar spray
  • Boiling Water

These methods, however effective, are general to most plants, so will often times harm the plants you desire to keep. They should probably be reserved for weeds around rock beds, driveways, and sidewalk cracks.

Mosquito Control Without Chemical Insecticides

Most municipalities no longer conduct widespread, preventative spraying for adult mosquitoes, which is largely ineffective. Larval control mechanisms, and minimization of standing water for breeding are the main effective controls against mosquito populations.

In Bucks County, when problem areas arise due to inefficient breeding control, adult spraying is conducted, usually with Ultra Low Volume spray (fogger) application of Pyrethroids, such as Permethrin and PBO mixes, which are highly toxic to bees, other beneficial insects, and water-dwelling critters. There are many home methods that can be undertaken to reduce the risk of mosquito outbreaks, which are risk factors for diseases such as West Nile Virus.

Eliminate standing water from your property:

  • Drain pools when not in use, support with floats to minimize water accumulation on top of covers
  • Clean gutters regularly
  • Provide adequate drainage for all gutter outputs and flood areas
  • Provide adequate circulation for garden ponds
  • Cover trash receptacles and drill holes in bottom to provide drainage
  • Do not over-water lawns and garden beds
  • Replace water in bird baths and rain catching buckets regularly


Stock isolated, man-made ponds with insect consuming fish such as goldfish, koi, and mosquito guppies. Reduce fish feeding to encourage mosquito larvae as alternate food source.

When standing water cannot be eliminated, use safe, species-specific controls against larval mosquitoes such as commercial products containing Bti (Mosquito Dunks, etc.) to treat these potential breeding grounds . Birds and Bats can also provide a good source of control for adult mosquitoes. See Biological Controls for More Information

Minimizing Mosquito Bite Risk

  • avoid being outdoors between dusk and dawn
  • wear long clothing to cover exposed skin
  • use mosquito nets/screens or tents on porches and decks
  • use a personal insect repellent (Lemon Eucalyptus formulas are some of the most effective natural repellent alternatives to DEET formulas)