Sevin Dust and Bees

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Any gardener knowns the woes of trying to protect crops and not harm useful insects. Thus goes the story of Sevin dust and bees. Known by the brand name “Sevin”, this pesticide is widely used in home gardens to protect leafy plants. Yet, lacking the ability to tell good insects from bad ones – it is also very harmful to honey bees. While not a perfect solution, homeowners can take steps to minimize the negative effectives of this and similar bee killing dusts.

Two containers of sevin insect killer and sevin dust used for pest control.

In truth, bee friendly gardening is not easy. The goal of preventing destructive pests and avoiding harm to beneficial pollinators requires a bit of thought and patience.

Sevin Dust Pest Control

In agriculture, the battle against pests is a constant struggle. One of the most effective products that has been used for years is Sevin dust. It has been a staple in home garden use for decades-because it works.

On the market since 1956, original Sevin dust (sold by Bayer) contains carbaryl, a broad-spectrum insecticide that targets a wide range of insect pests.

It works by disrupting the nervous system of insects (such as beetles, caterpillars, aphids and more) leading to paralysis and death.

I can remember my Grandpa using Sevin dust in a folded bag of cheese cloth to lightly dust his vegetable plants. It is not expensive and stores well for a long time.

As we look at the relationship between Sevin dust and bees in our home gardens, I hope to find a middle ground where these products can be used but in a controlled manner.

**Important Note: In recent years, the brand Sevin was sold to GardenTech. They are in the process of changing the active ingredients from carbaryl to zeta-cypermethrin, a newer pyrethroid insecticide – in many of the formulations. Still highly toxic to bees – read the label for application directions. What you have may depend on when it was purchased and changes made by the company.

Watermelon vine dusted with pesticide dust and a dead honey bee.

Understanding the Impact on Bees

Unfortunately, this type of dust pesticide can have a devastating effect on beneficial insects like honey bees or bumble bees. This is a big problem because many of the crops we are trying to protect need bee pollination.

Bees are social insects that forage for nectar and pollen. Honey bees travel for long distances (considering their size) to find food. This exposes them to treated plants and contaminated environments.

When bees come into contact with Sevin dust residues on flowers or foliage, it is attracted to their hairy bodies. They inadvertently carry the toxic material back to their hives.

This contaminates the food stores of the hive, as well as, poisoning adult bees and developing bee brood. (The same thing happens with powdered fire ant killers so please use granular instead.)

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 Are we poisoning the very insects needed to have a productive garden? Perhaps so, and it is not only the foraging bees that are at risk – the entire colony can be affected.

In addition, honey bee are primary pollinators of many plant species. Any threat to bee populations jeopardizes an ecological balance.

Sublethal Effects

It is important to understand that pesticides can harm with actually killing the bees. We call these sublethal effects.

Continuous exposure to small amount of Sevin dust can weaken bee immune systems, impair navigation and compromise the health and vitality of bee colonies.

White powdery dust of pesticides.

Reducing the Risk

I know that some of you feel you must use Sevin dust in your garden. Please consider these tips to reduce, as much as possible, negative effects on bees.

  • apply only to foliage in need of protection
  • use sparingly
  • do not apply when windy to avoid drift
  • avoid getting Sevin dust on flowers
  • do not apply to blooming weeds that bees like

The best tip of all – instead of using Sevin dust – go with the liquid spray. You can still reap the benefits of pest control without the dangers posed by dust particles.

Other Pest Control Options

While Sevin dust has long been relied upon as a go-to solution for pest control in agriculture and gardening, its harmful effects on bees and other beneficial insects underscore the need for alternatives.

  • Biological control
  • Integrated Pest Management (IPM)
  • Botanical Pesticides

Biological control methods use the natural enemies of pest to reduce their populations. Predatory insects such as ladybugs and lacewings can dine on aphids and caterpillars.

IPM strategies include crop rotation and mechanical control (pest traps and barriers) to reduce the use of pesticides.

Botanical pesticides are made from plant extracts – offering a natural alternative to synthetic chemical pesticides like Sevin dust. Compounds such as neem oil, pyrethrin, and insecticidal soap can effectively control a range of pests. The also break down rapidly in the environment, reducing their impact on beneficial insects and the ecosystem.

FAQs

Is Sevin dust harmful to bees?

Yes, Sevin dust can be harmful to bees, including honey bees. The active ingredient in Sevin dust, carbaryl, is a broad-spectrum insecticide that can affect bees when they come into contact with treated plants or contaminated environments.

Can Sevin dust impact bee populations beyond individual colonies?

Yes, Sevin dust can impact bee populations beyond individual colonies. Bees forage over wide areas, and residues of Sevin dust on blooming plants or in the environment can lead to widespread exposure among bee populations.

How does Sevin dust affect bees?

Sevin dust affects bees by disrupting their nervous system, leading to paralysis and death.

Using Sevin Dust to Control Undesirable Bees

While not the intended purpose for the product, Sevin Dust can be used to kill undesirable bees. Aggressive or destructive bee species like carpenter bees, hornets or wasps like yellow jacket wasps often nest in cavities or in the ground.

When done with care – you can use dust to destroy the nest while minimizing the risk to honey bees. Follow all safety precautions outlined on the product label to ensure safe and responsible use.

1. Apply Sevin Dust directly on the nest or at the nest entrance. This should be done on early mornings – or better – late in the day. A time when fewer honey bees are out in the field.

2. Do not spread the dust around on foliage areas where you see wasps etc. This will not work effectively and will endanger working bees.

It is not advisable to kill every insect you don’t like. They all have a role to play in our world. However, a large family of yellow jacket wasps right beside the picnic table is not good. A small application of Sevin dust will take care of that issue within a few days.

A Final Word

Everyone is entitled to their opinion-but I don’t think Sevin dust is inherently bad. If it is allowed in your area – it can be a valuable tool that should be used carefully. Minimize use of any dust, use liquid spray when you can and make wise choices when applying it. Choose more bee friendly options for your gardens when possible – that includes bee friendly weed killers. Every effort counts.

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