Lawn signs advertising causes and commercial services being provided homeowners have become ubiquitous in suburbia these days. But a new one has joined the paving, roofing and landscaping companies, mosquito sprayers and “Friends of the Llama” — seen on an East Bridgewater lawn reads, “No Spraying” with an image of a beehive.
The signs are not just for elections anymore.
The welfare of honeybees, already a source of concern because of parasites and climate concerns, has been raised in connection with spraying against mosquitoes.
Plymouth County Mosquito Control Project, meanwhile, assures beekeepers that they are committed to protecting pollinators.
“People do express concern but we have a policy that we spray at night [when bees are not active],” an entomologist with the PCMCP said, referring to the organization’s policy posted online at pymouthmosquito.org. “We do get questions and people who have bees we generally add to our no-spray list if they express concerns.”
That approach has found support from the Plymouth County Beekeepers Association, according to the group’s President Ann Rein of Hanson.
“The Plymouth County Mosquito Control people came and gave a talk at our club,” Rein said. “I’m confident that Plymouth County spraying is done with the utmost care. Obviously, no one wants anybody to die of West Nile Virus, nobody is that ridiculous.”
She said the issue they have is with private homeowners or independent companies that spray insecticide against mosquitoes during daylight hours.
“The Plymouth County Mosquito Control people, when you call them up, are at your house at ‘0 dark hundred’ — I’ve seen them out at quarter of four in the high summer,” Rein said. “They don’t spray irresponsibly, they do what’s necessary.”
New requirements for the protection of bees have been added to the labeling of Anvil 10+10 ULV, a product commonly used for adult mosquito control in Massachusetts, as well as other products registered for adult mosquito control, according to the Plymouth County Mosquito Control’s new policy. “These requirements have made it necessary to develop a policy that balances the environmental risks to bees from applications made to control adult mosquitoes and the need to protect the public from the threat of mosquito-borne diseases,” it states. “The new labeling precautions, with one exception, prohibit applications to blooming crops or weeds when bees are actively visiting the treatment area. The exception is when applications are made to prevent or control a threat to public and/or animal health determined by a state, tribal or local health or vector control agency on the basis of documented evidence of disease causing agents in vector mosquitoes or the occurrence of mosquito borne disease in animal or human populations, or if specifically approved by the state or tribe during a natural recovery effort.”
According to Bee Culture: The Magazine of American Beekeeping, that means pesticide applications against mosquitoes should be done after dark.
“Dark is dark, not twilight, not sunset: dark,” contributor Michelle Coploy wrote in the June 2015 issue. Since mosquito control products are also used to kill larvae in water, she wrote that care must be used to ensure pesticides in the water will not harm bees.
“Bees do drink water,” Coploy wrote. “So, if a pesticide lingers in the water, bees will encounter the pesticide there, as well as on blossoms, and guttation droplets on plants.”
That’s where advice to property owners to eliminate common mosquito breeding sources — stagnant water left in everything from neglected swimming pools and rain gutters to birdbaths and old tires — can help both control mosquitoes and protect pollinating bee colonies.
Last year, a WBZ-TV I-Team report noted that 35,000 acres of Mass. Audubon-owned land across the state was not being sprayed out of concern for bees, prompting protest from Hanson resident Kimberly King, whose daughter, Adreanna, died 10 years ago of Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE).
“It’s not a question of mosquito spraying [for the Beekeepers], it’s a matter of irresponsible spraying,” Rein said. “That’s the crux of the issue. As long as everybody’s responsible, it’s not a problem.”
Rein said some commercial spraying company operate on a 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., schedule — which is the during the daylight hours in which pollinators are most active.
She said no commercial companies have reached out to the Plymouth County Beekeepers for information, but added that she has seen one company’s advertisement on TV outlining the care they take to protect honeybees when they spray against mosquitoes.
“I wish I had caught the whole thing, but I was in the middle of something and didn’t hear what the company was,” she said. “Nobody wants anyone to lose a loved one to these [mosquito-borne] illnesses.”
Questions about or requests for mosquito spraying may be made to the Plymouth County Mosquito Control Project at 781-585-5450. Office hours are 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Plymouth County Beekeepers are located at 228 High St. Hanson can be reached at plymouthcountybeekeepers.org or visit them at the Bee Barn at the Marshfield Fair Aug. 18-27 for more information on protecting honeybees.