How Mosquito Squad Products & Service Can Benefit Bees

Cape Cod Mosquito Squad owner Curtis Felix speaks with Ben Robertson, owner of digital marketing agency Menadena about the top concerns regarding bees and yard treatments for ticks and mosquitoes. Curtis Felix brings to light an alternative for eliminating ticks and mosquitoes without harming bees.

Interview transcript:

Ben Robertson:            We have about fifteen minutes.

Curtis Felix:                   Okay.

Ben Robertson:            And the topic is bees. We don't currently have any blog posts on bees on the website. We have one post about the products but nothing specifically about bees. So, it's a good opportunity for us to address the issues that come up around bees and have something to share with people.

Curtis Felix:                   Great.

Ben Robertson:            So, what do you think are the top concerns regarding bees and your product.

Curtis Felix:                   I think one of the top concerns is that will harm bees.

Ben Robertson:            Mm-hmm (affirmative)-

Curtis Felix:                   There's a lot of concern about bee colony collapse disorder.

Ben Robertson:            Mm-hmm (affirmative)-

Curtis Felix:                   And the overall decline in bee populations.

Ben Robertson:            Yep.

Curtis Felix:                   And there's a lot of sort of mystery around that.

Ben Robertson:            Yep, yep.

Curtis Felix:                   And so one of the first things they often point to is, what pesticides might do. And recently, there's a lot of concern about neonicotinoids, which are a systemic pesticide. So, what happens when they're applied is that they actually make the plant poisonous to insects.

Ben Robertson:            Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Curtis Felix:                   And, so the material gets taken up in the plant matter.

Ben Robertson:            Yep.

Curtis Felix:                   And it stays persistent in the plant matter for quite some time,

Ben Robertson:            Okay.

Curtis Felix:                   So that the plant is effectively toxic to insects, including bees for a long period of time.

Ben Robertson:            Mm-hmm (affirmative)-

Curtis Felix:                   This includes all part of the plant including, flowers, and things, that bees would be attracted to like pollen and nectar. There's a lot of concern about that particular class of pesticide and it potential impact on bees.

Ben Robertson:            Yeah. Is that not proven that the neonicotinoids cause bee colony collapse?

Curtis Felix:                   Well, bee colony collapse disorder could be caused by a number of things and the science is not well understood yet.  For example tracing a bee out in the field, into the colony, and then definitively being able to say that it is responsible for the colony collapse is a different matter altogether.  For neonicotinoids, a bee comes in contact, the bee would need to survive and make it back to the hive bringing material that would be harmful, ie. without killing the bee before it reaches the hive.

Ben Robertson:            Mm-hmm (affirmative)-

Curtis Felix:                   That scenario is pretty complex, but is generating concerns.

Ben Robertson:            Okay, what is our material?

Curtis Felix:                   So our material is actually used by beekeepers as a medicine to get rid of mites in beehives.  It is called Permethrin.

Ben Robertson:            Okay.

Curtis Felix:                   Permethrin is actually used to get rid of mites in bee hives.

Ben Robertson:            Okay.

Curtis Felix:                   Beekeepers use it as medicine, as opposed to, the concerns that people would have around, a toxic pesticide.

Ben Robertson:            So, permethrin is considered to be 100% not toxic to bees?

Curtis Felix:                   No, it depends on the concentration.

Ben Robertson:            Of course.

Curtis Felix:                   Just like if you drink two fifths of alcohol, especially grain alcohol overdose on a prescription medication it can kill you.

Ben Robertson:            Yep.

Curtis Felix:                   You know, a martini or two, isn't going to kill you and the right dose of medicine can cure you.

Ben Robertson:            Mm-hmm (affirmative)-

Curtis Felix:                   So it's a matter of concentration. Crossing over the line of between being a medicine and being a beneficial to potentially being harmful. So, our product can kill bees at the right concentration.

Ben Robertson:            Of course. So how do we know we are at a low enough concentration not to kill them?

Curtis Felix:                   So, how do we know that? Based on a lot of research and experience in particular to avoid bee habitat and following the label instructions.  Tick and mosquito habitat is different from bee habitat. Mosquitoes and ticks prefer the cool dark damp areas where they thrive. Bees on the other hand are seeking flowering plants with pollen, and nectar.  We avoid treating those areas and we use a concentration that is at 1/100th of full strength.

Ben Robertson:            Mm-hmm (affirmative)-

Curtis Felix:                   But as importantly, we have beekeepers who use our service both on the Cape and around the country.  We monitor these locations closely so we are certain we are not seeing negative impacts.

Ben Robertson:            Yep.

Curtis Felix:                   In fact one of the tell-tale signs of a healthy hive is when a hive swarms and we do see that on properties that we are treating.

Ben Robertson:            Okay.

Curtis Felix:                   One of our colleagues in central Mass. has four different bee hives, one that they don't do anything with, three that they treat and one of them they treat super aggressively. Even on the property that receives super aggressive treatment, the hive is thriving. Indeed they have had instances where there is such an abundance of bees, that they swarm and take off and go to start another hive.  So again, we are not seeing negative impacts.

Ben Robertson:            Mm-hmm (affirmative)- That's amazing. So, you think that the customers that are using our service are actually, have healthier hives or just really healthy hives. Do you think they’re more healthy as a result of cutting down on other pests in the surrounding area?

Curtis Felix:                   While there is no scientific research to support this idea, I think there is a chance that the benefit obtained from using permethrin to treat mites in hives could also occur from treating the property if in fact we are reducing the local mite population. So,  emphasizing the word may, it may have a beneficial effect.f

Ben Robertson:            Yep.

Curtis Felix:                   But what can be said more definitively is that we do not see negative impacts.

Ben Robertson:            What scientific research have you looked at that you would recommend for people who are more interested in learning more about it. Any sources, in particular?

Curtis Felix:                   The EPA, when it goes about the process of approving products for use requires and conducts extensive research.  The EPA also has a large pollinator protection program under which there is extensive ongoing research into any pesticide links to bee colony collapse and population declines.  The research to date has mainly shown that disease, habitat loss and climate change are clearly having an impact while pesticides have been difficult to link.

Ben Robertson:            Okay.

Curtis Felix:                   But the other thing that I want to emphasize is that our philosophy and approach is to be very protective of pollinators and this is very important in technician training.  This approach allows us to get great results for our customers with little or no impact on pollinators.

Ben Robertson:            Sure

Curtis Felix:                   When we treat properties we don't spray flowering plants to eliminate any exposure and insure we don’t get our material near bees.

Ben Robertson:            Yeah.

Curtis Felix:                   We avoid places where bees are going to go, if bees are actively working we avoid those areas. Our treatment area is focusing on the cool dark damp areas where ticks and mosquitoes harbor including foliage, trees, grasses, plants and ground covers that are not flowering.  These are not areas that are attractive to bees.

Ben Robertson:            Mm-hmm (affirmative)-

Curtis Felix:                   So the habitat for ticks and mosquitoes is not the same as bees.

Ben Robertson:            Mm-hmm (affirmative)- That's great.

Curtis Felix:                   In addition to that, the material that we are using is diluted, we take a 10% material, and we dilute it by almost 99%.

Ben Robertson:            Mm-hmm (affirmative)-

Curtis Felix:                   So, it's .01% ie. mostly water that we're actually using. So, it's extremely, extremely dilute.

Ben Robertson:            Mm-hmm (affirmative)-

Curtis Felix:                   So we are focussing on different habitat with an extremely dilute product that may confer benefits, but more importantly, over the years has shown no detrimental impacts.