Sprayers urged to keep bees in mind

Hives at risk | With delayed seeding across parts of the Prairies, there are concerns more bees may be killed in the rush

Farmers need to think about beekeepers when applying insecticides, even when they can’t see a hive, says Gerry Moyen.

Moyen, who operates Moyen Honey Farms in Zenon Park, Sask., and is a director of the Saskatchewan Beekeepers Association, made a disheartening discovery early last week.

As many as 1,000 hives, totalling one-third of this year’s production, could be lost because of damage stemming from insecticide applications on nearby farms.

One application was made two weeks earlier to a field 1 1/2 kilo-metres away from the hive where Moyen first saw evidence of damage.

He has hives throughout the Rural Municipality of Connaught.

“There’s no way all the hives were infected by that one particular field,” he said.

Producers are advised to spray in the evening when beneficial organisms are less likely to be in the fields and wind is less of a concern.

“If they are spraying insecticides, there is a risk,” said Geoff Wilson, a provincial apiculturist with Saskatchewan Agriculture.

“The biggest thing to send to farmers is try to use respect around the beehives and spray at the appropriate times to reduce damage.”

Ideally, that’s a no-spray time zone from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., said Moyen.

“Depending on the weather. If it’s above 20 degrees, they cannot spray, because the bees are still flying and we can’t control honeybees to where they go,” he said.

In this case, Moyen said the application was made during the day. Spring rain may be putting added pressure on producers to spray at different times, he added.

“This year, as in any year, it depends when a person has to take control,” said Scott Hartley, an insect and vertebrate pest specialist with Sask-atchewan Agriculture.

“Sometimes you have to take advantage of your best opportunities.”

Wilson said it’s typical to see one or two of these incidents every growing season.

“It’s still early on in the season,” he said. “I’ve heard of one other case so far, but that may change as the season progresses.”

Moyen has encountered a similar situation before, but it was more than a decade ago. Since then, insecticides such as Matador have been introduced that are less harmful to bee populations.

Chemicals such as Lorsban and Cygon, a dimethoate with multiple modes of action that was sprayed on the field near Moyen’s hives, do more damage, he said.

Since making the discovery, Moyen has spoken with the producer and the Pest Management Regulatory Agency, and is working with both.

“We all have industries to protect, but we’ve got to learn to work together without hurting each other.”

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