Bees and Pesticides

— Written By Bryan Hartman
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With everything growing from crops, gardens, and weeds, it might be time to start using some pesticides. Depending on your needs, this could be an insecticide, herbicide, or fungicide. Pesticide product labels will contain information such as general use, when to use, what to wear during the application, and even possibly environmental effects. One environmental effect is the increased risk of pesticide exposure to honey bees. Many of the plants you might want to treat have blooms, nectar, and pollen, which are the primary food sources for honey bees. If only a few honey bees are exposed to a pesticide, it typically will not harm the 30,000 plus bees that are in an average honey bee colony. With overexposure or direct colony contact from a pesticide, it can compromise the hive’s health and longevity.

A bee rests on a white flower.

Now that you know this information let’s reduce the chance of pesticide injury to honey bees by communicating between applicators, beekeepers, farmers, and gardeners. Here are a few helpful steps to think about before you apply a pesticide:

  1. Examine the area to determine if bees are foraging on flowering plants
  2. If possible, do not spray if plants are in bloom
  3. Apply insecticides when bees are not foraging
  4. Avoid spray drift near honey bee colonies
  5. Read the pesticide label; as we say, the label is the law

Bees swarm outside of bee boxes.

BeeCheck is a tool that enables beekeepers and pesticide applicators to work together to protect honey bees through the use of a mapping program. For more information, go to BeeCheck.

Logo for beecheck.

If you are interested in learning more about labeled pesticide products and their effect on bees, check out the North Carolina Agricultural Chemicals Manual-Relative Toxicity of Pesticides to Honey Bees and Pesticide Use Inside and Around Honey Bee Hives.

North Carolina Agricultural Chemicals Manual cover.

If you have further questions, contact Bryan Hartman at or (336) 593-8179.