Dr. Tim McCoy’s talk to the Northern Neck Master Gardeners Wednesday was a talk about protecting bees from environmental hazards including pesticides. He did talk about that but first he had to establish the many sorts of bees and how the different sorts face different problems. McCoy teaches at Virginia Tech and is involved in the Pollinators Protection Project which studies how to protect and promote bees.
Pretty much everybody knows Honey bees and Bumble bees but they are only two of many types of bees, McCoy pointed out. He said there are 4600 different sorts of bees in North American and 460 in Virginia.
Bees, by definition, are flying insects with joined wings and they don’t necessarily look like Honey bees, which are not native to North America. Some bees, like Bumble bees, live in large colonies and are referred to as “social” but other bees are solitary and nest alone. There are Mason bees that build mud-walled cases for their larvae and Leafcutter bees that use masticated leaf material for their cases. There are also Digger bees that use tunnels.
Hazards are different for the unique types. The social bees can be clobbered when they descend on flowering plants that have had pesticide sprayed on them.
McCoy provided an example of a usually relatively benign pesticide, melathion, killing thousands of bees. It was applied to a grove of linden trees to kill the aphids infesting the grove. Unfortunately, it was applied during day time and it got the bees, too. Had it been applied at night, the bees would have been gone and therefore, not harmed.
McCoy advised the audience that in addition to avoiding improper use of pesticides, bee propagation can be helped by growing more flowers and, in the case of Mason bees, providing a source of clean mud for them.
Dr. Tim McCoy gave a presentation on the importance of using pesticides carefully and responsibly.