Bee City USA® Calls for Conversations Between Local Government Agencies and Beekeeping Chapters on Mosquito Abatement Plans
Tragically, millions of honey bees in Summerville, South Carolina, were found dead after Dorchester County ordered aerial spraying for mosquitoes between 6:30 and 8:30 last Sunday morning. The pesticide was the organophosphate Naled, used for mosquito abatement since the 1950s. Facing elevated losses and causing concern at the highest levels of government, honeybees and other pollinators are responsible for the reproduction of more than three-quarters of the world’s plant species and are vital to food security.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), “Spraying Naled can kill bees outside of their hives at the time of spraying; therefore, spraying is limited to dawn or dusk when bees are inside their hives. Because Naled breaks down quickly, it does not pose a risk to the honey bee populations…. For additional protection, urban beekeepers inside the spray zone can cover their hives when spraying occurs.” However, Dorchester County failed to directly notify beekeepers of plans to spray.
Bee City USA®, a national organization that galvanizes communities to sustain pollinators by providing them with healthy habitat, rich in a variety of native plants and free to nearly free of pesticides, encourages mosquito abatement districts across the country to provide beekeepers with ample notice of planned spraying so they can protect their hives as much as possible by covering them or moving them to a non-spray zone. By the same token, we encourage beekeeping chapters to meet with county officials in charge of vector control as soon as possible and each year to discuss mosquito control plans that protect pollinator health, and in the event of bee kills, how beekeepers will be compensated.
The mounds of dead bees near their hives in Summerville had beekeepers who were checking on them, but what about the other millions of wild non-honey bees living solitary lives with no keepers? Unlike honey bees, they are active early in the morning precisely when spraying is recommended “while pollinators are least active.” And what about the millions of moths, most of which are active at night when spraying is recommended?
Ironically, according to Zika Virus Net, the mosquitoes that may carry the Zika virus (Aedes aegypti) are a day-biting mosquito, most active during daylight, for approximately two hours before sunrise and several hours before sunset.” Furthermore, it “rests indoors, in closets and other dark spaces. Outside, they rest where it is cool and shaded. Unlike mosquitoes that breed in standing temporary pools of water, Aedes aegypti is adapted to breed around human dwellings and prefers to lay its eggs in clean water which contains no other living species.” Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, unless they are carried by the wind, mosquitoes generally are not strong fliers and generally do not travel more than a few hundred feet from where they pupated to become adults. Even though the CDC and researchers say larvicide is the most effective mosquito abatement strategy, communities continue using aerial sprays like Naled to target flying adult mosquitoes rather than their larvae.
In light of the fact that the scientific community is just now learning about this mosquito’s biology and behavior, we encourage much more public education, prevention efforts, and larval control before mounting widespread ground or aerial spraying campaigns. Indeed, according to Dr. David Pimentel, former professor of entomology at Cornell University, such spraying delivers less than 0.0001% of the insecticide to the target mosquitoes, and instead, releases 99.999% into the environment generally, threatening public health and potentially causing other environmental problems.
The professionals responsible for public safety bear a very heavy burden. Mosquito-borne viruses like Zika, West Nile, Dengue and Chikungunya are threats to human health. While West Nile virus has spread across the United States and Canada and numerous cases of Chikungunya have been acquired in Florida and Texas, to date there have been no reported cases of Dengue contracted in the continental United States and, so far, the CDC has only reported cases of locally-acquired Zika in Miami, Florida.
Unfortunately, according to Beyond Pesticides, “The more insecticides are relied upon to control mosquito populations, the quicker mosquitoes develop resistance to the insecticides.” That being said, Bee City USA is happy that in addition to the CDC’s advice about killing mosquitoes with insecticides, the CDC goes to great lengths to advise people to take precautions to prevent mosquito bites with the help of protective clothing, window and door screens, and repellents.
Experts generally agree that aerial spraying is at best only a temporary measure, which will not eliminate the problem. Moreover, aerial spraying may kill natural mosquito predators like dragonflies and damselflies, in addition to countless species of beneficial insects, including pollinators. Beyond Pesticides recommends, “To combat mosquito resistance, the dependency on chemical control must be addressed and lead to more sustainable methods, which include habitat modification, improved sanitation, and use of natural controls.”
For more information, see Beyond Pesticide’s article on Mosquito Control and Pollinator Health, and Mosquito Management and Insect-Borne Diseases webpage.
Bee City USA® is a nonprofit national organization that galvanizes communities to sustain pollinators, responsible for the reproduction of three-quarters of the world's plant species, by providing them with healthy habitat, rich in a variety of native plants and free to nearly free of pesticides. During the past few years, there have been calls to action both nationally and internationally to reverse pollinator declines. Both thinking globally and acting locally, Bee City USA offers a positive vision, which encourages individual efforts while facilitating creative, constructive community partnerships. Recognizing that we rely on pollinators (bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, flies, moths, beetles, etc.) for one in every three bites we eat, the program seeks to make the world safer for pollinators, one city at a time. Bee City USA launched in Asheville in June 2012. As of September 2016, we have certified 30 cities in 19 states as Bee City USA affiliates. In April 2015, we launched the companion program, Bee Campus USA for educational institutions and currently have certified 13 affiliates in 9 states. We helped Toronto launch Bee City Canada in spring 2016. Learn more at beecityusa.org.
Any unattributed opinions or positions are those of Bee City USA.
Western North Carolina Nature Writer George Ellison Writes Weekly Nature Column, Oftentimes, About Plants & Their Pollinators
As wild bees begin to prepare for the winter, those individuals that will "hibernate" to ensure the continuation of the species the next spring, do their very best to gather all of the pollen and nectar they can to fatten up. That's why fall flowers, like goldenrod, are such welcome sights.
For many years, naturalist George Ellison has contributed a weekly column to the Asheville Citizen-Times, illustrated by his wife, Elizabeth Ellison. Here is the most recent column about the many species of goldenrod.
The Washington Post reports that a new study finds in areas where neonicotinoid pesticides are used heavily for agriculture which is foraged on by bees, there is strong correlational evidence that they are contributing to local wild bee extinctions in tandem with habitat loss and diseases.
This story from the Los Angeles Times shares very encouraging news about retailers making a conscious effort to supply plants that have not been treated with neonicotinoid insecticides: http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-bees-pesticides-20160816-snap-story.html
Under the leadership of Roderick Simmons, the Asheville Parks and Recreation Department has been moving away from synthetic chemicals for pest management and fertilization to completely organic landscape management during the past two years.
On August 10 after spending all day training Asheville Parks and Recreation staff in organic lawn care methods, Chip Osborne, president of Osborne Organics, and Jay Feldman, Executive Director of Beyond Pesticides, led a 2+ hour public workshop at Lenoir Rhyne University's Center for Graduate Studies. The workshop was sponsored by Beyond Pesticides, the City of Asheville, Toxic Free NC, Bee City USA, and the Asheville Alternative to Pesticides Coalition.
About 50 people, many of them from the plant retailer or landscaping industry, attended the very informative workshop where Feldman summarized the origins of our national pesticide treadmill and Osborne explained working WITH nature and soil biology to maintain healthy turf lawns.
Cities maintain large expanses of turf lawns in public parks and athletic fields. As the inaugural affiliate of Bee City USA, the City of Asheville was selected by Beyond Pesticides and Osborne Organics to not only engage in this training, but also to test the methodology at three city-owned sites: Martin Luther KIng Park, Pack Square Park, and a new community garden. They have tested soil samples from each location and designed a management strategy in response. This coming year they will collaborate on implementing the plan.
The Bee City USA and Bee Campus USA programs encourage affiliates to practice organic, "least toxic," integrated pest management as espoused by Osborne Organics and Beyond Pesticides. It was encouraging to hear Chip Osborne support reducing lawns and expanding flower beds generally for the health of pollinators and other wildlife, and explain that including clover in lawns is good for soil, since clover is "nitrogen-fixing." Indeed, until the 1950's, grass seed mixes included clover!
Thanks to City Council's unanimous vote on June 6, Ann Arbor has met the requirements for becoming an affiliate of Bee City USA.
Numerous efforts are underway in Ann Arbor to have homeowners pledge not to use pesticides that are harmful to bees and to plant a diversity of flowers to meet their year-round needs for nectar and pollen.
Ryan Stanton wrote a well researched article for MLIVE quoted here: "Council Member Sabra Briere, D-1st Ward, shared some of her own thoughts as the City Council approved the Bee City USA resolution.
She said it's important to recognize the relationship between what people grow and what products they use and the impact on insects and small animals.
'Part of what makes Bee City USA as important an effort as it is, is that while it focuses on bees, it doesn't limit itself to honey bees,' she said. 'It instead encourages people to promote habitats for bees and other pollinators.'"
The Environmental Commission led by the Deputy Manager for Parks & Recreation Services, Dave Borneman, has been charged with facilitating the city's efforts to be more pollinator-friendly along with Germaine Smith, Pollinator Policy Action Team Chair for the Washtenaw County Food Policy Council, and Eileen Dickinson, a leader in the Bee Safe Neighborhoods movement.
Anne Arundel County+Annapolis+Highland Beach Certified as Bee City USA Affiliate--First City/County Partnership To Do So!
Good things are happening for pollinators in Maryland! The Maryland Pollinator Protection Act recently banned neonicotinoid pesticide sales to people who are not certified as pesticide applicators, AND Anne Arundel County joined forces with its municipalities--Annapolis and Highland Beach, to apply for Bee City USA certification.
In addition to the county commissioners and city council members who voted in favor of protecting pollinators, thanks to the leadership of Anna Chaney (owner of Honey's Harvest Farm), Lisa Barge (Agricultural Marketing & Development Manager for the Anne Arundel Economic Development Corporation) and Maria Broadbent (Director of the City of Annapolis Department of Neighborhood & Environmental Programs) for building the coalition to make this innovative collaboration happen.
On June 20, the Decatur City Commission voted unanimously to become the first Bee City USA affiliate in Georgia.
Watch the Commission's 10 minute discussion of the Bee City USA resolution (at the very beginning of the meeting) to see how beekeeper Deborah Palmer turned her anger to activism for pollinators.
Deborah's "show and tell" of a basket of food items that don't require pollinators and a basket of food items that do require pollinators really drove the message of pollinators' role in food security home!
Decatur's process is similar to most affiliates:
1) A local champion asked fellow citizens to endorse an application to Bee City USA and formed a steering committee.
2) They completed an application, indicating who would be their city liaison.
3) They shared a draft resolution and application with Bee City USA and city officials for their review.
4) The city considered and adopted the resolution.
Kudos to Decatur for committing to sustain pollinators.
Located in Portland, Oregon, Portland State University applied to be certified as a Bee Campus USA in spring 2016 because they are committed to modeling landscaping and teaching practices that encourage the larger community to do what they can to sustain vital pollinators.
Heather Spalding, Coordinator of the Student Sustainability Center explains, "PSU plants mostly natives and edibles on campus and our Landscaping department uses an Integrated Pest Management Plan that includes minimizing the use of pesticides."
PSU has a variety of student focused gardens, which include pollinators, natives, and edibles, and provides opportunities for students to participate in garden education activities through their Garden Task Force.
Right in the middle of PSU's campus, their Oak Savanna is a minimally managed outdoor classroom that is protected from foot and dog traffic. The space includes oaks and sparse understory (including plants like camas, grasses, oregon grape, and serviceberry) that increases the biodiversity of our campus ecosystem. The space is mowed just once in August in accordance with local indigenous management practices so that plants can complete their bloom cycle. Hundreds of dragonflies, ladybugs, and bees are found there in spring and summer.
Congratulations President Wiewel and the faculty, staff and students of Portland State University!
Header photo by: Nancy Lee Adamson
These are the opinions and events of interest to the Bee City USA director and board.