pesticides pollinator threats

Yes, Raid kills bumble bees

The thing to remember about pesticides is this: they are designed to kill living things. As it happens, living things have a lot in common. There’s a very old saying, “the dose makes the poison.” That just means that if you keep giving something a greater and greater dose, eventually you will kill it.

The chemical companies would like you to believe that their products are specialized to kill certain things and spare others, but that is largely a myth. Some insecticides kill fish, some rodenticides kill birds, some acaricides kill bees. And of course Raid contains an insecticide and a bumble bee is an insect—no surprise there.

Most of the insecticides used on farm crops used to be applied before the bees were brought in for pollination. Although this did nothing for the wild bees, it lessened the pesticide exposure to the managed bees. But since the systemic insecticides came into use that system doesn’t work even for managed bees. The poison goes throughout the plant, the bees eat the pollen, and . . . bingo . . . the manufacturers deny everything.

Besides the poisons I usually write about, there are many other classes of pesticides, including avicides (kill birds), molluscicides (kill snails and slugs), nematicides (kill roundworms), piscicides (kill fish), and predacides (kill vertebrate predators.) Wow, that last one hits close to home. As you can see from this list, the distinction is mostly one of degree—what’s the difference between a rodent and a vertebrate predator, other than size?

Still, I doubt we will ever stop using pesticides completely, because in addition to the long list of “cides” above, I failed to mention the antimicrobials, which kill bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens. So, sure, your penicillin tablet is a pesticide.

I believe there will always be legitimate uses for pesticides, but the truly dangerous thing is the indiscriminate use of pesticides by people, companies, or governments who don’t understand how they work and the harm they can do. If we could just remember one thing—that pesticides kill living things—I think we could go a long way toward more judicious use. After all, who of your best friends isn’t a living thing?


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  • I have a bee hive in a column in the front of my house. I would like to remove them but not kill them all. Any ideas?

    • Rocky,

      It will make a difference what kind of bees they are. If they are honey bees you can try calling a local beekeeping club. If they are really hard to get out, though, you may not get any takers.

  • Hi. Need your help. I had a tree fall in the yard with a honey bee hive in it. Yes we got stung some. But after we removed the tree and the hive I still have a few bees lighting on my PVC pipe in the yard which is leaking for weeks and I can’t fix it until I KILL the bees. I want really dead this time and I want fast and safe. Exactly what product can I buy? I know it’s Raid but which one of a very large line. Oh also a little worried about the fact that the PVC is a direct off shoot of the main water line from the street. I don’t think the spray can get into the flow (the pipe is capped with blue glue but not water tight). The water is cascading from the cap joint not spraying. But I’m not sure. Really don’t want to poison the water supply. All help is appreciated.

    • Donna,

      If you kill those bees, more will come. All bees need a water source in summer. Just shoo them away with a broom or something and then fix the pipe. They are not protecting their young in this case so are unlikely to sting.

  • Thank you for responding. Shoo them away? I don’t have your comfort level by any means and I was recently stung so don’t thin that tactic will work for me. I know more will come. I don’t need to kill all the bees forever. I just need to kill the existing and keep them away for a day to fix the pipe and then we can coexist again. Can you tell me exactly which product to buy that kills the bees on contact? People in the stores are useless as if no one ever heard of bee killer. Thanks again.

    • Donna,

      You got stung before because the nest was disturbed and the baby bees were threatened. When bees are out collecting water or food, they are not protecting the nest. It’s an entirely different situation.

    • Donna,

      Yes, a blog about bees is most likely about bees and not people. But the human race cannot survive without bees, so I hope people have enough foresight to preserve these essential creatures for the benefit of future generations. Killing them is not the answer.