Is Neem Oil Safe For Bees? Sort Of Maybe

Have you ever found yourself asking – Is Organic Neem Oil Safe for Bees? Here is why as plant growers, we need to know.

In recent years, a significant concern has been preserving and restoring the world’s bee population.

Are Bees safe around Neem Oil?Pin

Bees are essential and one of the few (and some would say only) natural producers of human-friendly processed food.

Bees play a crucial role in the human diet, from bee pollen to honey, honeycomb, and even bee larvae.

As the primary pollinators of ornamental plants, flowers, and vital food crops, they’re even more critical for plants.

We recently discovered that pesticide products were the main reason for the declining bee population. So now countries worldwide have set strict rules and guidelines for treating plants.

Is neem oil harmful to bees? Will neem oil kill bees?

Organic Neem insecticide oil is one of the safest, most effective pest control products on the market. But some countries, such as Great Britain, have banned its use for its high bee mortality.

As Neem (and most neem products) are still widely used in the US, it’s essential to know if this product is safe to use on plant leaves and around bees.

Does Neem Oil Harm Bees?

So, Is neem oil bad for bees?

Neem oil is a vegetable oil made from the fruit and seeds of the neem tree. 

It is often mixed with insecticidal soap, horticultural oils, and other pesticides to create a potent foliar spray.

It’s commonly used to stave off common insect pests, such as:

  • Aphids
  • Beetles
  • Cabbage worms
  • Leafhoppers
  • Japanese beetles
  • Whiteflies
  • White grubs
  • Spider mites
  • Thrips and other bugs
  • Weevils

It’s also great for controlling diseases like root rot, rust, and powdery mildew.

Organic pesticides like Neem oil require some sensible and safe use rules for the plants’ bees to visit. 

Neem oil can be bad for bees if not used carefully. Always read the product label and follow the label directions as listed.

The relationship between neem oil and bees involves potential harm to bees and butterflies, so caution is necessary to protect these essential pollinators.

So, how do you use this fantastic product safely?

Does Neem Oil Kill Bees?

Neem oil is considered bee-friendly but CAN be deadly if misused.

When used as a foliar spray for an entire plant, direct contact with neem will clog the airways of insect pests and cause them to suffocate.

Details:  How Does Neem Oil Work On Soft-Bodied Insects and Plant Pests?

Also, ingesting neem places the primary active ingredient, Azadirachtin, into the insect’s body. This occurs when the plant roots take up the neem oil in the plant tissue, which the insect ingests.

Azadirachtin doesn’t act as a direct killer. It instead confuses the victim’s body due to its similarity to the insect hormone systems.

Azadirachtin acts in the following ways: It deters certain insects, such as locusts, from feeding, and it interferes with the normal life cycle of insects, including feeding, molting, mating, and egg-laying.” – EPA Fact Sheet.

A bee visiting a freshly treated plant may collect pollen containing neem oil and take it back to the hive, where other bees ingest it.

Since most bees are workers, the damage may be negligible. But some Azadirachtin may reach the queen, or drones could eat it. Either can be devastating for a hive.

Does neem oil kill pollinators?

Neem oil is generally safe for pollinators such as bees when used properly. In fact, neem oil won’t harm pollinators unless they are directly sprayed with it1.

Bees, wasps, and moths do not eat plants and thus won’t ingest the active ingredient in neem oil called azadirachtin.

However, neem oil can potentially harm predatory bugs such as green lacewings. These beneficial insects can help control pests in the garden, so it’s important to use neem oil judiciously to avoid harming them.

When Is Neem Oil Safe For Bees?

It’s easy to use neem oil spray safely around bees and other pollinators when you follow a few simple rules:

Don’t Spray Near Hives

Using any form of insecticidal or pesticidal spray creates a risk that the wind may carry off droplets, contaminating the hive.

Only Spray at Dusk and Dawn

Neem oil can affect bees, so use it with caution, preferably in the evening when bees are less active.

Bees, other pollinators, and most beneficial insects tend to be diurnal or nocturnal. The neem oil in foliar sprays dissipates in 45 minutes to an hour, leaving no residue.

So, it’s best to spray in the early morning, late evening, or at night to reduce the risk of accidentally spraying the bees.

By spraying at these times, there is minimal risk of contaminating bees during their midday foraging runs.

Use Soil Soaks or Neem Cakes as Part of Your Treatment

These remedies kill ground-borne pests without harming earthworms. In addition, neem soaks become a systemic insecticide when absorbed.

As bees and other beneficial insects won’t pierce the plant’s surface, they never come into contact with the Azadirachtin.

Related: 20 Overlooked Uses for Honey

Does Neem Oil Hurt Bees When Bought Commercially?

Many commercial products advertise, including neem oil or Azadirachtin, but they can harm bees.

Such pest-repellent products may contain neem and have a list of other ingredients that may be toxic to bees.

Generally, never buy a neem product with added ingredients unless you know what each one is and what it does.

Homemade foliar sprays and Neem drenches are cheap and take mere minutes to create. Consider investing in a bottle of cold-pressed raw neem oil or clarified hydrophobic neem oil instead of buying a premade spray.

The base ingredients for homemade neem solutions are:

Make sure anything you add beyond the base ingredients is safe for use around bees. Essential oils and other common additives can leave behind residue.

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