Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Author: Bee Health Collective Staff

Reduce Your Pesticide Use

Following Integrated Pest Management principles will help you use other measures, and pesticide use is a last resort. If you do choose to use pesticides (herbicides, insecticides or fungicides) in your garden or lawn, be sure to read labels carefully and follow the instructions. Buying organic food can also help reduce your pesticide impact and often local organic produce is produced on small farms with better sustainability practices that benefit bees.

Re-Think Your Lawn

In 2005, a NASA study estimated that nearly 2% of all land in the US is constituted by lawns. That equals about 40 Million acres of the iconic lush, green grass that is sought after by many homeowners, golf courses, and businesses.  These lawns not only create “food deserts” for pollinators, they also use an estimated 7 Billion gallons of water per day.  With growing issues like a lack of pollinator and insect habitat, increased chemical use, and water and drought concerns, re-framing the idea of an “ideal” lawn could have significant positive environmental impacts, including supporting pollinators.  

Does your yard support pollinators? Planting flowers is a great step, but even mowing your lawn less frequently can provide more habitat for bees – and you don’t have to break a sweat to do it. Replacing grass with clover is another way to re-think your yard that benefits pollinators and also improves soil health. In Minnesota you can even apply for a grant to help you transform your yard into a pollinator haven!

Plant Flowers

Just like humans, bees need good nutrition to stay healthy and strong. As urbanization and agriculture expand and take up more space on the landscape, there is less habitat left for pollinators. While some initiatives are addressing this on a large scale, many hands make light work and planting pollinator friendly flowers – in your garden, yard, or even a window box or pot, makes a difference! Pollinator Partnership and the U.S. Forest Service offer regional planting guides, so you can discover what to plant in your area to make the biggest impact.

If you manage or farm land, and want it to support pollinators, these programs offer free seed mixes and technical guidance:

Seeds for Bees

Bee & Butterfly Habitat Fund


Pesticides are chemicals that are used to control unwanted pests. From mosquito and tick repellants to weed killers for lawns, to agricultural chemicals, pesticides are powerful tools that can be beneficial. Their usage can also have unintended consequences.

Bees encounter pesticides most often from agricultural use, in-hive products like miticides, community mosquito control, landscaping programs, and homeowner lawn and garden use. Beekeepers rely on pesticides to treat Varroa mites and farmers and gardeners rely on pesticides to treat unwanted insects, fungus, and weeds. While insecticides like neonicotinoids are the most widely known pesticides to impact bees and pollinators, other pesticides such as herbicides can have indirect effects by reducing blooming plants that bees need to survive. Even some fungicides may have unintentional effects on honey bee nutrition or may increase toxicity when mixed with other chemicals.

Beeswax inside of a colony can easily become contaminated with (and often hangs on to) the various pesticides bees encounter. This chart from the Bee Informed Partnership, shows the proportion of pesticides, by target, in wax samples taken from honey bee colonies across the United States. Varroacides make up a large chunk because beekeepers apply these in colonies to control Varroa. Bees tend to encounter insecticides and fungicides while foraging in cropping systems. Fungicides are often used in almond production and blueberries, which many colonies visit for pollination. Samples to produce this data were collected through the National Honey Bee Disease Survey (USDA, HNBDS) in association with Apiary Inspectors of America and University of Maryland.

When considering pesticide effects on pollinators, scientists and beekeepers must be aware of the lethal effects as well as sub-lethal effects. Sublethal effects can be less obvious, and include sensory impairment, reduced immune functions, reduced ability to forage, and other damaging but not immediately deadly effects.

Pesticides are part of current agricultural practices, but many groups are working on mitigating risk to honey bees and other non-target insects through the development of communication tools, best management practices, and the use of integrated pest management (IPM).There are many resources that can be used to learn more about the use of pesticides in the United States, for example, the following tool from the United States Geological Survey, which estimates pesticide use in the United States. Another excellent resource is the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR).

Poor Nutrition

Just like humans, honey bees are better able to stay healthy if properly nourished., and tThe best source of nutrition is from natural sources – in the case of bees, that means a diversity of blooming plants.

Good nutrition helps mitigate other health stressors including Varroa, pesticides, and pathogens, and access to plenty of flowers is essential to honey production. Honey bees and native pollinators are literally “losing ground” as agricultural land use expands. Corn and Soybeans are the two monoculture crops that use the most land in the USA. These crops do not depend on bees for pollination and tend to be farmed in large areas of land that are heavily treated with agricultural chemicals. 

The above chart, sourced from USDA data, illustrates the growth in corn and soy crops since 1986 along with an overall decline in acres enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). The Conservation Reserve Program is a land conservation program administered by the Farm Service Agency (FSA). In exchange for a yearly rental payment, farmers enrolled in the program agree to remove environmentally sensitive land from agricultural production and plant species that will improve environmental health and quality. This acreage is traditionally a mainstay for bees’ summer range and honey production Learn More Here

The Bee and Butterfly Habitat Fund, which has been studied alongside CRP, is a highly effective option for putting pollinator forage on less commercially productive ground. 

When forage isn’t abundant, beekeepers can give bees a boost by using various protein and sugar supplements. Supplemental protein is used when pollen is not readily available to support brood production. This works for a little while but eventually, a natural pollen source is needed for the colony to remain healthy.

Supplemental sugar, usually in syrup form, is given to bees if they need additional energy stores for spring growth or to prepare for winter. Feeding bees is a part of beekeeping, but there is no replacement for natural, diverse blooming plants.

These commercial beekeepers are using tanks of sugar syrup carried on trucks to feed bee colonies upon arrival in California for almond pollination..


Bees encounter viral, bacterial, and fungal pathogens that can have serious impacts on colony health and survival. Some of these pathogens are highly contagious on their own, and others can also be spread by the Varroa mite.

Beekeepers maintain constant vigilance and routines to combat pathogens, including administering preventative varroacides and other treatments as needed.

Some infections are more worrisome than others. The spore-forming bacteria that causes American foulbrood (AFB) is so persistent that destroying the colony completely is recommended to prevent the spread of this disease.


Because of diseases like AFB, each state has an apiary inspection program to help beekeepers deal with pathogens, and prevent the spread of disease. This is also why many beekeepers manage bees within a colony that has removable frames. Getting an up-close look and sample of the honey bee brood is essential to monitoring colony health.  

You can find your State Apiarist Here


Nosema disease is widespread, and caused by a single-celled parasite that infects the gut-lining of the bee, causing dysentery and other colony health impacts. 

As problematic as bacterial and fungal infections are for honey bees, viruses are incredibly wide-spread, due to the prevalence of the Varroa mite.

Deformed Wing Virus (DWV)

(Chart Image here-2021 Prevalence of DWV-A)This chart from the Bee Informed Partnership shows the Prevalence of Deformed wing virus (DWV). DWV is closely linked to Vvarroa mite infection. On average DWV is found in roughly 80% of bee colonies sampled across the United States. Bees with twisted, deformed wings are a sure sign of DWV infection (and Varroa mite infestation). The bees, unable to fly, can be seen crawling in front of the colony. Explore the Bee Informed Partnership database here.

Proclamations for Pollinator Week

For those who think about bee health often, June 20th kicks off a familiar and fun time of year. It’s the beginning of Pollinator Week- an annual, international, event to celebrate pollinators and raise awareness about pollinator health.

Pollinator week is an annual event to celebrate pollinators and raise awareness about pollinator health.

All of our Bee Health Collective partners celebrate pollinator week, and Project Apis m.’s own Danielle Downey even helped get the week officially proclaimed in her home state of South

Did you know: Anyone can help get this week proclaimed by submitting a request to your home state. You can see if your state participates, and how to make the proclamation request here:

New look at the BHC

At the Bee Health Collective, we are celebrating by sharing a new look, new features, and fun facts about pollinators that can be found on our website which was created to promote accurate information about bee health and beekeeping in the U.S.

Happy Pollinator Week!


The single largest culprit of colony losses is the parasitic mite Varroa destructor. Sometimes compared to a ‘dirty needle’, Varroa mites make a hole and feed on honey bees, vectoring viruses and bacteria as they feed. The mite was introduced from Asia, and the Western honey bee (Apis meliffera) is very vulnerable to this pest. Left unchecked, Varroa mites will kill most honey bee colonies.

Most beekeepers use chemical treatments to control Varroa mites and keep colonies alive. This is not ideal because chemical treatments are costly and laborious, have variable results, can leave residues, and may have sublethal effects on the bees themselves. Mites have also repeatedly developed resistance to chemical treatments. ​

Beekeepers desperately need more tools to control Varroa mites. Unfortunately, the market for these tools is quite small in comparison to other markets for new pest control research and development. Another, more sustainable approach to managing Varroa is through the development and use of mite-resistant bees. A variety of mechanisms such as grooming and brood removal are known. The best-characterized mechanism of resistance is the behavioral trait called Varroa sensitive hygiene (VSH). Bees that express VSH can detect reproducing Varroa in capped brood and remove the infested larvae, ensuring that Varroa do not successfully reproduce, keeping mite populations low.

A “Bee-g” Question: How do Honey Bees and Native Bees Interact?

A honey bee and a native bee forage on the same floral resource in the captionCache Valley, Utah. Utah is home to about 900 species of native bees, and 28,000 commercial honey bee colonies.

Access to clean, nutritious forage is essential for all bees, and as bee forage is declining each year in the USA, the number of native bees and managed bees are also declining. 75 years ago there were nearly twice as many honey bee colonies in the US, and more than half the native bee species assessed seem to be in decline.   

Continue reading

  • 1
  • 2

© Bee Health Collective. All rights reserved.