Shops are stocking more flea treatments than ever before to prevent any pests from entering our homes.
In the UK, we have an estimated 11 million cats and 12 million dogs in 2023. There are currently 138 parasiticide products available and authorised in the country, which contain the insecticide 'imidacloprid', and 396 others that use 'fipronil'.
But are these chemicals dangerous to our bees?
Flea Treatments and Bees
Imidacloprid and fipronil are fantastic at killing fleas and ticks but also other 'good' insects.
A 2023 study from the Imperial College London found that one monthly flea treatment for a large dog can kill 25 million bees!
Imidacloprid works by interfering with an insect's central nervous system. Fipronil works similarly and causes honey bees to become disoriented. This means they can't find their hives and increases the amount of highly infectious disease across bee populations too!
Even shortly after Imidacloprid was banned from outdoor use in 2018 to protect our insects, over 2500 kg was still being sold the following year as a parasiticide for domestic use on our pets, making it one of the UK's best-selling veterinary treatments.
What About Our Environment?
One of our Beevive founders, Faye, attended the 'The Big Buzz Pollinator Conference' last year and heard Professor David Goulson speak on how flea treatments affect our environment. She learnt why you see areas in parks with completely dead grass as the flea treatment chemicals in dogs' systems come out in their urine!
The chemicals also infect natural water sources like ponds and rivers as we put them down the drain when washing our pets, their bedding/clothes and our hands after cuddling them.
Dragonflies and may fly larvae living there are greatly affected by these high insecticide concentrations, which when killed off, affects other animals who rely on them as staples in the food chain. Sadly, these chemicals were found in every urban area examined by the School of Public Health in 2023, with the highest amounts found in areas with wastewater treatment plants.
So, what can we do about it?
Here are 3 ways to help our bees and our environment:
1) Treat Afflicted Animals Only
Similarly, to as-needed medication, many environmental researchers suggest only treating animals that are infected with fleas or ticks. Vet Dr Arielle Griffiths suggests opting for oral treatments such as Credelio or Bravecto instead of spot-on, or using topical treatments only if your pet has flea allergy-induced dermatitis.
Flea treatments can also have side effects, so not applying them regularly can help pets with more sensitive systems/skin. If your pet is a house cat or an older dog that doesn't go outside, they won't be picking up any unwanted buggy hitchhikers either.
We always encourage you to talk to your vet first. They will know about what treatments are safer options for the environment, better for your furry best friend and if you need the preventative treatments that are on the market.
2) Safely Dispose of Packaging
As noted by Severn Edge Veterinary Group, we must keep these chemicals out of our water systems. Instead of washing unused or out-of-date flea treatment packets away, return them to your local vet surgery who will dispose of them safely.
3) Create More Bee Spaces
We always advocate creating more bee-friendly gardens and bee hotels to help our bees!
You can plant seed balls or support your local garden centre by getting them lots of yummy pollen and nectar.
We hope this was helpful.
For further reading, check out our blog on bees and pesticides here!