Spruce aphids and honeybees

The spruce aphid has invaded Homer. Our spruce trees have become heavily infected with the spruce aphid due to persistent warm winters. Spruce aphids can survive when winter temperatures stay above 14 degrees Fahrenheit for an extended time. Homer has set all-time monthly records the past two winters with high temperatures reaching into the low 50s (NOAA Historical Data). 

Homer is developing into an entrepreneurial beekeeping community, with hives supporting around 1.5 million honeybees. Our bees are threatened indirectly by the spruce aphid. The only way to really kill the spruce aphid is by using systemic insecticides that kill insects. Since bees are insects, our bees are put in jeopardy with the use of insecticides to kill the aphids. 

There are two methods of using insecticides for spruce aphids; one is to spray the trees, the other is to hire an arborist to directly inject the trees. Either method exposes bees to the insecticide.

Bees gather spruce tree sap to make a substance called ‘propolis’ used to seal cracks in the hive boxes.  When a bee visits a spruce tree treated with insecticide, the bee may take insecticide laced sap back to the hive.  Exposure to the insecticide could kill the bees or weaken them to the point they cannot forage. The bees need our help to survive, but we also need their help for survival.  We depend on their pollinating powers for our food.

Before you spray or direct inject spruce trees on your property with an insecticide, think of the honeybee, and perhaps reconsider your use of insecticides.   Instead, keep your spruce tree well-watered thereby saving the tree and the bees. 

For the good of the bees,

Linda Gorman

Homer Girls Honey

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