The Final Stand

Our journey on garden care for this series is coming to an end our friends. Thus, we wanted to finally cover The use of bee safe sprays. There can and has been debate due to new developments in scientific research and new discoveries being made. So, hold tight and enjoy as we wrap up our “To Spray or Not to Spray” series.


To Spray, I say!

Let’s say you don’t like the idea of having more bugs in your garden and/or they simply didn’t last as long as you hoped. Rotating and cleaning your tools has help but now you are simply getting too busy but you still want fresh fruits and veggies, or just a nice garden to relax in. That is no problem at all, sprays can be incredibly helpful and rather effective. But that effectiveness can come at a price since they can kill bees quite easily. What can you do, what are your choices?


Follow Some Instruction First

Depending on the spray, you may be just fine to use it. However, certain forms of applying this may cause problems for the bees or even your plants. Here are a few basic practices to help ensure the safety of the bees and other pollinators.

  • Always use the products you buy at the recommended concentrations and with the recommended frequency.
  • Always try to treat after dusk, or before dawn, when bees will be in their hives.
  • Never spray liquid treatments or spread powered treatments when it is windy. The wind will scatter the treatments to unintended areas.
  • Never treat open flowers or soon to open flower buds directly. Bees and other pollinators feed off of the nectar and/or pollen from flowers. Treating the flowers or flower buds can lead to contaminated nectar and/or pollen.

Here are some treatments that are believed to be safe for the bees:


Neem Oil 

The oil pressed from Neem seeds can be used as a pesticide/fungicide. It is biodegradable and short lived. When used as an insecticide, it should be use in concentrations below 0.3%. Higher concentrations of neem oil can damage plants. Because of this, it is recommended to treat a few leaves of each type plant, and waiting 24 hours, before treating all of your plants. To make a 0.3% mixture, disperse 1 tablespoon neem oil into 1 gallon of water. Shake every time before use, since the oil and water can separate. Only insects that eat the sprayed plant are harmed. If sprayed when bees are not flying, and blooms/buds are avoided, it is relatively safe for bees. This treatment has been shown to be effective against aphids, mealybugs, scale, whiteflies, and mites, and other insects that eat plant matter. Only young insects in the larval stage are harmed by neem oil.


A 1% neem oil solution (3 tablespoons into 1 gallon of water) can be used as a fungicide. Saturate the roots of infected plants. In this capacity, neem oil can be used to treat rust, black spot, root rot, and sooty mold.


Insecticidal Soap

You can make your own insecticidal soap using a liquid castile soap. Spray a 2% solution directly on insect infestations to kill insects. The soap makes the cell membranes of the insects leak their contents, which leads to insect death. Make by adding 1 tablespoon of liquid castile soap to 1 quart of water. Alternatively, you can purchase an insecticidal soap. This is a very effective insecticide against many insects, especially soft bodied insects. There is no residual effect, so once dry, it will not kill insects. Because will be killed if directly sprayed, so do not use if bees are flying. Instead, spray between dusk and dawn.



While garlic will kill some insects, it is most effective used as a deterrent for soft bodied and crawling pests. To make a garlic concentrate, blend 2-3 heads of garlic in your blender with 4 cups of water, then blend until liquified. Strain the liquid into a clean 1 quart jar and store in your refrigerator. When ready to use, mix 1 part garlic concentrate to 3 parts fresh water. Spray this mixture onto plants- avoid blooms. Scientific evidence indicates garlic is not harmful to bees. Garlic can also be planted in your garden, in flower beds, and around trees to act as a deterrent.

Turn Up the Heat for the Garlic Solution

Some people like to include a hot pepper when they make their concentrate. Hot peppers contain capsaicin. It’s what makes them hot. It is non-toxic to reptiles, birds, but it can cause diarrhea, indigestion, stomach pain, gas, and excessive thirst in most animals, but acts a nerve toxin for invertebrates. That means it will kill insects, including bees. If you choose remember it can harm the bees and many other pollinators. Spray between dusk and dawn, when the bees are not flying. Never directly spray the flowers or flower buds. Never spray water sources – it will kill aquatic invertebrates, and can poison the water for beneficial insects. And finally, peppers can burn plants if used in too high of a concentration.

The Wonders of Garlic Continues

Garlic can also be used as a fungicide. A 2008 report in the European Journal of Plant Pathology found garlic effective against tomato leaf blight and tuber blight. Baker, dubbed “America’s Master Gardener,” writes that “there’s nothin’ fungi hate more than garlic.” To use garlic as a fungicide, add ½ cup baking soda to your 1 quart of garlic concentrate. To treat fungal infections, mix 1 part  of the concentrate/baking soda mixture with 3 parts fresh water. Use this to saturate the soil around plants suffering from fungal infections. Just use with caution is you have cats or dogs since garlic, chives, and onion can be toxic to both.


Kaolin Clay 

Kaolin clay is used as a barrier. Insects don’t like it, so they stay off of treated plants. It needs to be used before you develop any pest problems, It should be reapplied every 1-3 weeks, for a total of 3 applications. To use the clay, mix 2 cups of clay with 1 gallon water, and 1 T liquid soap. Use a pump sprayer. This solution of finely ground kaolin clay is sprayed onto plants, including developing fruits or vegetables. The solution needs constant agitation or shaking to keep the kaolin clay particles suspended in the water. Application of the clay will not harm the produce but does deter pests from feeding on the plants or produce. Kaolin clay treatments can be used up to the day of harvest. The Kaolin film can simply be rinsed off the produce when harvested or before consumption. Kaolin clay is non-toxic bees.


Final Notes

A few important things to remember when choosing to use treatments:

  1. Treatments approved for use on organic produce are not always safe for bees. So, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that if a treatment is approved for organic farming/gardening, it must be safe for general use.  List of organic treatments


  1. Natural does not always mean safe for the bees. For example, Natural pyrethrums (isolated from chrysanthemum plants), once believed to be safe for use around bees are now know to be harmful.


  1. Just because a treatment is believed to be safe around bees at this time, that doesn’t mean that in the future we won’t discover that it is actually harmful. A case in point is glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup weed killer. So, when you use a “safe” treatment, you might unknowingly be contributing to the problem of colony collapse disorder in the bees. Because of this, try to limit the exposure honey bees receive.

Okay Now, POP QUIZ!

No, It’s Okay, Put the Pencil Down, We Were Kidding


We hope all of these have helped you in your efforts in improving your garden and making your life a bit easier. We all can accomplish great things when we work together so help us in protecting the bees simply by sharing this article series with your friends, family, neighbors, coworkers, or even the next stranger you see in the grocery aisle. Okay, sorry, please don’t go asking strangers to read articles you find on the internet- that isn’t safe and we would like you to remain safe and healthy. How about you simply considering sharing this article on facebook and let us know what you thought out all of this. As always, we love hearing from you and we hope you take care.


If you haven’t read it yet, check out last week’s article. It goes hand in hand with this one.

To Spray or Not To Spray: The Infection

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