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The specialist international beekeeping organisation

Protecting bees

Protecting bees from pesticides 

The unsafe use of pesticides can kill bees. Bees are insects. Consequently, preparations that are designed to kill insects (insecticides) will be dangerous for bees if applied incorrectly or in a manner that allows bees to come into contact with the insecticide. Herbicides designed to kill flowering plants considered to be weeds, potentially reduce the foraging posssibilities for bees. When a colony of bees is weakened or killed the beekeeper loses a valuable resource and nearby farmers lose the extra crop yields caused by bees' pollinating activity. The beekeeper can help reduce bee poisoning in different ways:

  1. Bees must be kept at a safe distance from areas where pesticides are being applied.
  2. Bees can be moved away before the spraying, and kept away as long as the poisons are still in the flowers.
  3. The beekeeper and the farmer can co-operate. If beekeepers learn about different pesticides, they can discuss with farmers, warn them against the most dangerous pesticides, and develop beneficial agreements concerning pollination services and the prudent use of pesticides.
  4. If pesticides are used on flowering plants near the hives, and it is too difficult to move the hives away, the bees can be confined inside the hives. The hives can be covered by large, heavy cloths. It is necessary to put water on the cloth to cool the bees. The bees should also be provided with water inside the hive, so that they are able to cool the brood. If the hives are placed in shade, and the sacking is kept wet, the bees can be covered for up to two days. It may be necessary to apply water to the sacking every one to three hours to keep the colony sufficiently cool. Overheating of a colony of bees can lead to their rapid death. Larger colonies are more sensitive to overheating than small, and it is important that there is plenty of space and good ventilation in the hive.

Protecting bees from other environmental dangers

A significant threat to bees is loss, fragmentation and deterioration of habitat. Landscapes which are dominated by mono-cultures are unsuitable for bees as they need a diverse diet to remain healthy, and they require plants which flower at different times of the year - so there is always food available. Forest and bush fires and opportunistic honey hunting that destroys the bees' nests can also have a negative impact on the survival of individual colonies. A thriving beekeeping industry is central to protecting habitats as it encourages people to act as advocates for the bees and their environment. It also establishes a cash value which can help others to understand the value of the bees to those who exploit them. Some of this cash value can be measured in the extra crop yield that nearby farmers will enjoy because of the bees pollination activity.


Resources

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