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Letter to the Editor

Pesticides and honeybees

To the editor: Business is booming in Fairbanks for mosquito barrier spraying companies. Unfortunately, that puts me at odds with them.

I’m a beekeeper and have been for about a decade. Beekeeping here isn’t easy — the bees are expensive, the season is short and unpredictable. Now there’s a new problem: hundreds, sometimes thousands, of dead bees. They die with their tongues out trying to clean something they can’t get off: bifenthrin and deltamethrin.

These two chemicals are used to treat properties for mosquitoes. They are pesticides, and despite assurances to beekeepers and customers, they are lethal to honeybees. Pesticides are broad-spectrum chemicals: They kill all insects.

On the National Pesticide Information Center website, both pesticides have warnings related to honeybees. The EPA data sheets for bifenthrin and deltamethrin both state, “This product is highly toxic to bees exposed to direct treatment on blooming crops or weeds. Do not apply this product or allow drift when bees are foraging the treatment area.” Bifenthrin contains an additional warning stating that the post-treatment residues are also toxic to foraging bees.

This residual toxicity is where the problem comes from. It doesn’t matter if treatment is done in the wee hours or if bees are locked up during treatment. For weeks after a property is treated, flowering plants on it will be toxic to bees.

Because of this, these pesticides are harmful to the beehives even if they don’t kill them outright. Studies show bifenthrin residues on flowers and deltamethrin residues in pollen cause a sharp reduction in how many bees a hive can raise while reducing forage efficiency — dead foragers must be replaced by nurse bees. This damage to the hive translates directly to lost income and wasted investment for beekeepers.

Unfortunately, these chemicals are also incredibly toxic to fish. They won’t enter the water table but will readily lodge in the upper layers of our soil and wash into the rivers.

If you spray your property for mosquitoes, I urge you to reconsider. There are safer and cheaper options available for mosquito control — ones that don’t kill honeybees, fish and a multitude of others.

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