One of the things we work hard at, here at Mosquito Joe, is minimizing our footprint in your yard. While we recognize the devastating impacts of mosquito borne illnesses (and the allergies some of our customers have to mosquitoes), we also recognize the vital role that other insects play. The owners of Mosquito Joe of NW Houston are bee keepers and are committed to keeping focus on reducing the unwanted insects while minimizing our impact on other creatures.
The circle of life in any given space requires that birds have insects to feed on and that those insects can freely visit and pollinate flowers, for example. These “trophic cascades” are vital and while we want to provide our customers with a mosquito free (or flea, tick or fire ant free) yard we also recognize that responsible pest control means minimizing our interference.
To that end, every customer we treat has a personalized plan based on their yard. Our technicians continually update customer notes to reflect these services so that our treatment is always current to that specific space, and so our other technicians are up to date when they visit. We never treat flowering plants or fruit trees directly, and instead use garlic at the base of these plants. The garlic is offensive to mosquitoes and will push them elsewhere where we can kill them without the presence of pollinators. We also monitor wind and won’t treat if the wind might cause drift, noting the speed and direction at every service. We have several customers who are bee keepers, and for them we use a different product that is labelled for use around hives. It doesn’t have the staying power of other products, so we reserve it for those guys. We are proud to say that one of our beekeepers was recently told they have the healthiest hive ever seen – and we’ve been treating her yard for years. We have a lot of pride about that.
Back to bees though – Honey bees are fascinating insects. To begin with, one pound of honey requires the nectar of 2 million flowers and 900,000 miles of travel! Of course, one bee cannot do this and each one will only make 1/12th of a teaspoon of honey in its lifetime. Having said that, they are no slouches and are each capable of flying up to 15 mph and for up to six miles. Each hive has one queen, who will live up to 5 years. In the spring she is capable of laying 2,500 eggs per day.
Bees communicate with one another through the “waggle dance”. When a bee locates a good source of nectar, she will return to the hive and direct the other bees to that location through a dance. This dance shows the location of the flower in relation to the sun and the hive. The hive is composed of the queen, the worker bees (all female) and the drones (the only males). One last amazing fact: when the queen dies, every bee in the hive is immediately aware and chaos ensues short term. The bees immediately set to work hatching a new queen. The cause of a bee swarm is the loss of a queen.
The future of the Honey Bee is something that has been a cause for concern for some time, particularly since 2006 when beekeepers reported losses of hives from 33 – 90%. Bees were leaving the hive and not returning leaving beekeepers baffled. The name given to this condition is CCD (Colony Collapse Disorder) and the impact has declined since that time, but colonies are still weaker than ever. Unexplained colony declines have occurred before, in 1880, 1920, 1960 and 1995 for example. Many of these occurrences have been unexplained, while others seem to point to new parasites that impact the hive. However, scientists point out that there is no one cause to the decline, although they agree that a baseline cause could impact the bee’s immune system, rendering them susceptible to illness and disease.
A reduction of habitat and access to the best pollens also plays a role. As more and more land is destroyed a bee’s access to a diverse plant habitat is reduced. Pesticides are also a threat to the bee population. Specifically, the use of neonicotinoids, routinely used in the US on wheat and corn, soy and cotton crops, has impacted the bee population. A British study reported that “neonics” prevent bees from supplying their hives with enough food.
Neonics are never and will never be used by Mosquito Joe. We will continue to maintain our focus on individual, boots on the ground services, that minimizes impacts to our bee population. Last year we gave all our customers the gift of a “bee garden” seed packet. Our hope is that many of our customers planted their seeds and that this year our honey bees will enjoy the addition of thousands of flowers to our area.
If you are interested in helping the bees, there are many organizations out there who are dedicated to raising funds for further research and protection of the Honey Bee. One great organization is The Honey Bee Conservancy. Check them out here for more information.