Nursery owners know the damaging toll that insects can take on their operation. If left unchecked, pests such as mites, caterpillars, beetles, weevils, thrips and aphids will inflict damage and disease upon plants that impact a nursery’s bottom line. However, control of these damaging insects can have unintended consequences on some beneficial species, including honeybees. Populations have declined significantly in recent years, with an estimated 44 percent decline in honeybee colonies between 2015 and 2016 alone. These alarming drops threaten the future of the honeybee species and their contributions to nearly one third of the country’s food supply.
Ensuring the use of bee-friendly pest management practices on your nursery extends beyond a commitment to running an environmentally friendly business. Failure to do so can also impact the bottom line, as more and more consumers become aware of the bee safety concerns associated with certain pest control practices. More than 60 major retailers have pledged to phase out plants not grown in bee-friendly nurseries, and a number of online databases have been created to help consumers find nurseries that meet specific requirements regarding their potential impact on bee populations.
For nursery operators seeking effective control of harmful insects without posing a risk to bees, Mavrik Aquaflow® Insecticide/Miticide provides control of a broad spectrum of insects and mites, without the concern of dried residue harming honeybees. This is supported by a Washington State University study that concluded that honeybees exposed to the residue of tau-fluvalinate had a survival rate of 97 percent after three hours, 96 percent after eight hours and 96 percent after 24 hours.
Choosing to administer a bee-friendly pesticide like Mavrik Aquaflow® Insecticide/Miticide may be the single greatest factor in limiting an operation’s impact on honeybees, but there are a number of steps operators can take to protect honeybees on a nursery:
- Implement a comprehensive Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program to achieve the most efficient control of insects and reduce the reliance on pesticides. This includes cultural practices and sanitation efforts to limit conditions on a nursery that make it possible for pests to thrive. Efforts such as strategic plant placement, proactive weeding and ensuring the use of pest-free planting stock can all limit the proliferation of damaging insects. Nursery operators can even rely on beneficial insects that eat more harmful species to provide some naturally occurring control.
- Another important component of an IPM program is regular monitoring of plants and recordkeeping. This will help operators identify insect problems quicker, and know precisely where to target pesticide applications when they become necessary. It is also recommended that operators establish a threshold for treatment – the point at which the anticipated economic damage to plants warrants pesticide application. This will allow operators to more strategically and judiciously apply pesticides rather than relying on a predetermined schedule.
- Plant bee-friendly flowers near the nursery that can serve as a source of food. These flowers should be excluded from pesticide applications.
- When applying any pesticide, carefully consider the timing. Sprays should not be applied when bees are present, with early mornings and late evenings providing preferable windows. Also take a more selective approach to where insecticides are applied. Limit sprayings to spots of insect activity, and avoid spraying on flowers or buds.
Honeybees play an essential role in our ecosystem and economy, and their declining population is a serious cause for concern. This threat is compounded by the growing awareness among the general public and how it will influence their purchasing decisions. To ensure that your nursery is operating in an environmentally responsible manner and as a viable option for consumers, remember the importance of implementing bee-friendly products and practices.