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Environment Protection Authority

Preventing bee deaths from spray drift

Media release: 24 November 2016

Preventing bee deaths from spray drift

Local bee populations are at risk of accidental extermination from chemical crop spray this summer, a problem which can be easily avoided by farmers and bee keepers keeping track of hive locations and following some simple guidelines, the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) said today.
The EPA is reminding bee keepers and crop farmers of the importance of clear, early communication in order to avoid damage to beehives from chemical spray drift which can cost NSW bee keepers potentially thousands of dollars in lost income.

Used under the wrong weather conditions, spray from herbicide and pesticides can travel up to 10 kilometres and cause damage to non-target crops, native plants and insects in its path.

EPA Regional Director North, Adam Gilligan said a typical beehive can contain between 30,000 to 50,000 bees, 90-95 per cent of which may be killed from a single spray drift incident.

“Bees play an important role in any healthy ecosystem and are essential for the survival of many plant species and food crops,” Mr Gilligan said.

“We encourage beekeepers to let farmers know specifically when and where they are going to put their hives.

“Farmers have a responsibility to ensure they are using herbicides and pesticides safely. This includes following product instructions carefully, monitoring local weather conditions and connecting with any local bee keepers, other farmers and surrounding neighbours ahead of time.”

As the summer foraging season for bees gets underway across NSW, the message to take care, to communicate your plans with beekeepers, farmers and other land users, and to use pesticides safely is timely.

There are a range of resources to help promote better communication between beekeepers and farmers:
• A factsheet on how to reduce damage to honey bees for bee keepers and crop farmers from the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI)
• A guide to pesticides and their effect on bees from NSW DPI
• Information on how to report pesticide misuse to the NSW EPA
• CropLife Australia’s Bee Connected app which connects beekeepers and farmers

The EPA regulates the use of pesticides in NSW, including those used in agriculture, on public land and in commercial and domestic premises, through the provisions of the Pesticides Act 1999.

Anyone with a concern, or knowledge of a spray drift incident or pesticide misuse in their local area should report it to the EPA’s the Environment Line on 131 555. 

Top tips to avoid spray drift this summer:
1. Don’t spray when it’s hot.
2. Don’t spray when it’s too windy –wind speeds between 3-15km/s are ideal.
3. Avoid spraying during temperature inversions, which are more common in the early morning, evening or during the night.
4. Have the right equipment – nozzles that produce larger spray droplets are best because spray is less likely to drift.
5. Don’t drive too fast – it increases air movement and drift.
6. Minimise boom height to reduce the distance between spray nozzles and the target crop.

Contact: EPA public Affairs

Page last updated: 24 November 2016