Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Is private mosquito spraying killing bees? Yes, beekeepers group says

Mosquito spaying from the city uses high-grade chemicals that don't harm the bee population, said Andy Westrich, president of the Colonial Beekeepers Association. (WYDaily/Adobe)
Mosquito spaying from the city uses high-grade chemicals that don’t harm the bee population, said Andy Westrich, president of the Colonial Beekeepers Association. (WYDaily/Adobe)

As mosquito season begins, many areas have started spraying their yards to get rid of the pesky insects.

But while these sprays kill mosquitoes, they can sometimes be harmful to other insects as well.

The Colonial Beekeepers Association recently posted on Facebook, stating that Mosquito Joe had sprayed pesticides containing pyrethroids on a property in York County during a time of high winds from the north. As a result, the winds brought the pesticides onto a nearby property that belongs to a local beekeeper.

The association claims the chemicals that were blown into the yard killed all the bees in two hives and heavily damaged a third. The beekeeper also had an organic vegetable garden and line of blueberry bushes that are still in bloom, but no longer have butterflies nor bees around them.

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According to the Mosquito Joe website, the company uses a spray that contains synthetic pyrethroids, which have a similar structure to pyrethrins, a natural byproduct of the Chrysanthemum flower.

However, while that chemical is water-based and does not harm plants, it is toxic to bees and fish, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

While some people can spray these on their yards by choice, the EPA changed labels for this chemical to include language stating that it must only be applied if the wind direction favors on-target deposition and when winds do not exceed 15 mph, according to a 2008 letter from the agency.

But this isn’t the first time this has happened, said Andy Westrich, president of the association. 

“It happens all the time here,” he said. “There’s places where I can tell you that I have seen people try to beekeep and they can’t because the hives are dying or the bees won’t build correctly. And the common denominator is the mosquito spraying.”

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Westrich said the issue isn’t as prominent when a locality sprays for bees because they’re using chemicals that tend to deteriorate after six or eight hours. When a locality sprays, they typically do so in the evening so that by the time the bees and other insects are out the following morning, the chemical is no longer harmful to them.

But private mosquito companies can use chemicals that stay on plants for weeks and can harm bees, some of which aren’t totally transparent, Westrich said.

Westrich said he has contacted private companies such as Mosquito Joe in the past to learn more about the chemicals being sprayed but never received any information. If he was able to find the names of all the chemicals being used, he could find the Material Data Safety Sheet which would provide information on its toxicity to bees and other wildlife.

“Time after time, I would say I would love the name of the chemical they’re using,” he said. “But it’s always this big secret.”

WYDaily reached out to Mosquito Joe of the Peninsula but did not receive a response.

Westrich said residents should be more aware of what they are spraying in their yards.

“Everyone is in a big dither about how honeybees are important, but in this area, our biggest problem is mosquito control,” he said. “Our biggest problem is people are worried about going outside and not being bothered by the mosquitoes but don’t think about what they’re doing to the environment.”


Alexa Doiron
Alexa Doiron
Alexa Doiron is a multimedia reporter for WYDaily. She graduated from Roanoke College and is currently working on a master’s degree in English at Virginia Commonwealth University. Alexa was born and raised in Williamsburg and enjoys writing stories about local flair. She began her career in journalism at the Warhill High School newspaper and, eight years later, still loves it. After working as a news editor in Blacksburg, Va., Alexa missed Williamsburg and decided to come back home. In her free time, she enjoys reading Jane Austen and playing with her puppy, Poe. Alexa can be reached at

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