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Weed Killer Safe for Bees

Many homeowners have some areas that they would prefer to be weed free.  If this applies to you, what can you do?  You need a weed killer safe for bees and other pollinators. In general, weeds are good for bees, try to leave a few when you can.  Most of them flower and produce nectar, pollen or both for our winged pollinators.  But when deciding how to control unruly weeds, consider the safety of visiting insects and birds.

Honey bee on blooming weed flower image.

Finding a Weed Killer Safe for Bees

Any article pertaining to the use of weed or grass killers must contain a mention of glyphosate, the most widely used herbicide in the world. 

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Many studies have suggested serious negative effects on bees (and maybe ourselves) from the use of this product in our environment. 

Commonly known as Roundup, you will find glyphosate listed as the primarily active ingredient in many weed control products.  The manufacturer maintains that it is safe when used as directed. 

But, why take the chance – try to avoid it – and always read the label on any product you apply to outdoor foliage.

Bee on flower - bee safe weed killer image.

Why are Commercial Weed Killers so Popular?

Commercial weed killers have grown in popularity due to their ease of use.  They can be purchased in a concentrated form and diluted with water to cover a large area.

Most of them work well when used according to the label and some control weeds with 1 application.  However, there is increasing concern about the effects of their use on our environment. 

Is our soil and water suffering contamination that then leads to an unsafe food chain?  Many people think so.

The good news is you do not have to rely on commercial products to reduce the number of weeds in your landscape.  There are other ways to control unwanted vegetation.

Natural Weed Killers Safe for Bees

As a beekeeper, I am always concerned about the use of any chemical in my yard.  But you don’t have to be a beekeeper to care about pollinators and want to help save bees. 

Every homeowner has the chance and yes, the responsibility to consider the results of their actions. The time-honored method of pulling weeds is one way to remove them from the yard.

Honestly, a determined gardener with a hoe is the most bee friendly way to killing weeds that you will find. 

But I realize that this is not always practical.  Some people do not have the physical ability or time to weed their garden by hand.

Secondly, a good coat of mulch can smother small weeds and result in a lesser need to use chemicals. 

Planning your garden design well with groupings of plants placed close together can reduce the room for weeds to flourish.

Another option, is the use of commercial bee friendly weed killers that are safe for bees and the environment.  However, these also should be used with restraint and only as much as is needed to control undesirable weeds.

Bee Friendly Weed Killer Recipes

White vinegar or apple cider vinegar are popular ingredients in several bee friendly weed killer recipes. These can be made a home but don’t think they are not strong – you should still use them with care.

Vinegar Weed Killers

Vinegar is often mixed with water, a little dish washing liquid, and a little salt.  Then, it is sprayed on the plants you wish to remove.

Adding too much salt to the soil is not a great practice so some gardeners prefer to use the recipe without salt.  You can learn more about making and using it in my post – DIY Vinegar Weed Killer.

This is an effective way to kills weeds and relatively inexpensive.  Spray later in the afternoon when most bees have stopped foraging.  A mix can be stored and used again within a few weeks. 

This is not a one and done process. You will need to repeat application throughout the summer as more weeds will return. In truth, natural sprays don’t seem to work as long as commercial mixtures.

Using Corn Gluten for Weed Control

Another recipe for weed control involves the use of corn gluten.  Available in pellets, powder or granules it is a byproduct from the milling of corn. 

While it won’t kill existing weeds, it does a pretty good job of preventing new weed seeds from sprouting. And as always, when using any type of spray avoid getting it on desirable vegetation.  

Avoid spraying anything during the morning or mid-day. Our bees are gathering plant nectar from many flowers during this time.

They are also gathering pollen that is needed to feed baby bees. Spray late in the day when most of the foraging has stopped.

Container for homemade weed and grass killer for garden use image.

Bee Safe Weed Killer for Lawns

You can find several commercial products labeled as safe for bees to use on your lawns. Each one is slightly different from the manufacturer – read the label carefully before purchasing.

One of the most popular options – even for lawns is corn gluten meal. This can be a bee, kid and dog safe way to reduce weeds. However, it must be used properly to get good results.

Final Thoughts on Weed Killers Safe for Bees

Most homeowners spend at least a part of their Summer season in a battle against weeds.  I encourage everyone to try to set aside areas for natural plant growth to help pollinating insects. 

Some weeds provide much needed food for bees and other pollinators. Even leaving them for a few weeks in Spring can help growing bee colonies.

For those locations that really need some weed control, consider trying some of these natural controls: weed by hand, mulch or whip up a simple recipe to spray on unwanted plants.

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