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I have hives that are close to a field that gets sprayed each year, any help to protect my bees would be nice.

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    I know someone who had a variant of this problem. It turned out the local farmers were actually quite sympathetic to it (they too need the bees to pollinate and they too like honey). Their solution (I don't know details, so can't "answer" your question) was the farmers and the bee-guy worked together to 1) find alternative pesticides which were less toxic to bees, 2) partially implement a biological pest control and 3) the bees were kept in for a period of time after the spraying so they'd not eat the freshly laced pesticide. You'll have to do the hard work of researching alternatives for them – Yogesch Dec 30 '18 at 7:25
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    Hi! This is a common and difficult problem. We have beekeeper friends on the legislative committee, Massachusetts Government Apiary Protection program, helping beekeepers and farmers work together. Do you have any bee-attracting flowers in your yard? It doesn't alleviate the problem, but it's one way to keep your bees closer to the hive. – Sue Dec 30 '18 at 17:51
  • So I have some new information on the topic. I understand that cow manure and urine is used by many traditional/organic Indian farmers as both fertilizer and pesticide. Sprinkling a diluted mix (of cow manure + urine) seems to keep most insects/pests away. Apparently the stench also keeps away the local monkeys and deer from the crops. The farmers collect this stuff from their own animals as well as the local dairies. I am not too knowledgeable on this topic so please do some further research. But then again not a lot of traditional Indian farmers are on the internet, so maybe just experiment? – Yogesch Jan 8 at 4:27
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It looks like there isn't much you can do because most of it depends on the farmers. With that said,

The farther colonies are away from fields or orchards that are treated with pesticides, the better chance the bees have against pesticide poisoning.

Establish apiaries at least 4 miles from crops being treated with toxic materials and subjected to drift. However, if your apiary is already located in an agricultural area where pesticide use is high, moving your bees may be the best insurance against future pesticide kills since preventing honey bees from foraging on pesticide-contaminated flowers is almost impossible.

If moving is impossible, covering colonies with a well-ventilated screen to restrict honey bee flight during peak foraging hours may be your only course of action. However, this method has dangerous side effects and could lead to higher mortality than would have occurred from pesticide exposure. Colonies may have difficulty controlling their hive temperature when confined and can easily overheat, so care must be taken. Providing water inside the screen will allow the bees to reduce temperatures. Do not keep the colony covered for more than two days. Covering the colonies with large wet burlap sacks and providing them with shade is another method for preventing overheating.

Protecting Pollinators from Pesticides

Do not leave unmarked colonies of bees next to orchards or fields. Post your name, address, and phone number in printing large enough to be read at some distance in all apiaries so you can be contacted readily to move the colonies when hazardous sprays are to be applied.

...

Cover honey bee colonies with wet burlap for two or three days to protect them from the initial hazards of an insecticide. Such covers should be put over the hives during the night before the crop is treated and should be kept wet during use. This method works; however, most beekeepers find it impractical.

How to Reduce Bee Poisoning from Pesticides

If you can't move the bees to a safe location, it looks like your best bet is to contact the farmers and ask that they notify you before they apply their pesticides so you can try and keep the bees at home.

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To tag onto Charlie's answer - I will say it depends on the pesticides in use. I will give a specific example of the application of Neem Oil. (Source: I was raising honeybees to pollinate my large pumpkin patch.)

Neem oil is sometimes utilized along with sodium bicarbonate to both treat various blights, as well as treat pests.

Neem oil works in a couple ways:

  1. It can suffocate pests that become coated in it.
  2. It will repel 'munchers' that would otherwise dine on the treated plants.

Organic neem oil would be hazardous to my bees if I applied it during the day while they were active as I could suffocate them inadvertently. By applying it late in the evening after my blooms had closed and the bees were less active, I successfully treated my pumpkin plants (within a hundred yards off my hives) and caused no ill effects to my bees.

Long story short, I would attempt to contact local farmers and coordinate with them as best as possible. This may involve you learning with pesticides they intend to use and researching their effects on your colonies - and presenting an agreeable solution to the local farmers.

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