As you may realize from other articles on GardenHugs, I use neem oil for nearly all the pests in my garden. Neem is a natural pesticide that is very effective at controlling a wide variety of garden pests and is also organic! For the most part, neem oil does not hurt beneficial insects such as ladybugs and parasitic wasps. One of the most beneficial insects in our gardens are honey bees. As such, you may be wondering is neem oil safe for bees?
Unfortunately, there is a lot of controversy in regards to the effect of neem oil on bees. In my experience, people and studies agree that bees are not affected by neem oil however many pre-mixed neem oil products contain other insecticides that can kill or deter bees from coming and pollinating your garden.
Many gardeners will tell you that it is perfectly safe for bees. Others will point out that certain products contain a warning on their packaging that states it is harmful to beneficial insects. Some gardeners are just happy using neem for squash bugs and don’t care about the bees.
The Truth About Bees and Neem
To get technical, pure neem oil is toxic to all insects; including bees. But you are not applying 100% oil to your plants. When mixed at proper levels with water and an all-natural liquid soap such as Dr. Bronners (I prefer the lavender, which seems to attract more bees) will have very little effect on honey bees, butterflies and ladybugs if any at effect all. Just to be safe, avoid spraying bees directly with anything, let alone neem oil. Bees are less active in the early morning and evening. So try to apply the neem oil mixture with a fine-spray handheld mister at these times.
So Give Me the Answer! Is Neem Oil Safe for Bees?
I use neem in my garden almost daily as well as tend 3 beehives on my property and I have never experienced any issues. Heck, I have even watched videos of beekeepers spraying their hives with a light neem oil mixture to combat spider mite infestations! Thankfully I have not had any infestation on my hives, but it is nice to know there is an organic solution for pests that won’t hurt my honey factory workers. All in all, I think it is safe to answer the question with a resounding YES.
Now, I am sure that there will be people who disagree with me and I will get flamed with the comments for this post. This is my experience and the experience of other beekeepers who are much older and wiser than I. I have read many forum threads that go on for ages arguing this topic. Most people argue that since neem is toxic to insects and bees are insects you cannot say it is safe. The opposing argument is that the level of oil that the bees are exposed to are far below the levels needed to have any negative effects.
All I know if that my bees are happy and my garden pests are not.