App Helps Protect Bees In The Field

Oregon State University (OSU) released a smartphone app for growers and beekeepers to consult while in the field. This smartphone app accompanies OSU Extension’s 2013 publication, How to Reduce Bee Poisoning from Pesticides, PNW 591.

Growers and beekeepers can now remotely consult the publication’s pesticide tables on their phones or tablets. The popular guide lists 150 insecticides, fungicides, miticides, slug killers, and growth disruptors — all of them now searchable by trade name or chemical name in the new app.

“It’s a smartphone world,” said the publication’s lead author, Ramesh Sagili, an entomologist and Extension bee researcher in OSU’s College of Agricultural Sciences. “Our stakeholders have been asking for an app to go along with this publication, and they’re very excited that we now have one.”

“How to Reduce Bee Poisoning” was first published in 2006. It was expanded in 2013 by coauthor Louisa Hooven, a toxicologist and bee expert in the College of Agricultural Sciences, with an extensive update of the pesticide information.

“We looked at the crops grown in the Northwest,” she said, “and then at all the products that are likely to be used when the crop is flowering — which is when the bees will be foraging. Those were the pesticides we included.”

Products are sorted into three classes: highly toxic, toxic, and “no bee precautionary statement on label.” The ratings are based on the cautions and restrictions required by EPA and listed on the products’ labels, Hooven said.

In addition, the guide estimates “residual toxicity” for several of the products. That information, which is not required by EPA and may or may not be on the label, came from Hooven’s extensive search through EPA risk assessment documents and the toxicology literature.

“There was some information on residual toxicity in the previous edition,” she said. “We expanded the number of products quite a lot, so we included residual toxicity information for those products for which that’s known, and we updated the information for the products already listed.”

The guide recommends best practices for managing pesticide applications to protect all bee species —not only honeybees (Apis mellifera), but mason bees (Osmia lignaria), alkali bees (Nomia melanderi), and alfalfa leafcutting bees (Megachile rotundata). These bee species are also managed as agricultural pollinators.

It also tells how to protect native ground-dwelling species such as squash bees, long-horned bees, sweat bees, mining bees, and bumblebees.

“Pesticides will affect these species differently than honey bees or other managed species,” said Hooven, “because they have different life habits and are present at different times.”

West Coast agriculture is critically dependent on pollinating insects, said Sagili, who has authored or coauthored four other Extension publications on honeybees.

The best protection for bees, Sagili said, starts with good communication between grower and beekeeper.

“Pesticide use and bee protection are not mutually exclusive,” he said. “There’s a balanced way to control pests and protect bees, both. We want this guide to be a useful tool for growers and beekeepers to make informed decisions together.”

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