Pollinators (a group of insects that includes, but is not restricted to, bees) are essential to agriculture. Pesticides (material used to control insects or plant diseases) can poison pollinators. This applies to organic as well as traditional pesticides. Pollinators are exposed to pesticides through direct contact, contact with residues and by ingesting nectar or pollen containing pesticide residue. Here’s how to protect your pollinators.
- Avoid using Pesticides
There are many alternatives to chemical control – cultural techniques that promote plant health, using physical barriers to exclude insects or using trap crops or handpicking to decrease the number of insects are just a few examples.
- Encourage the well being of pollinators
Plant flowers for continuous bloom throughout the growing season. Access to clean water is a plus; native pollinators also appreciate nest building materials.
- Reduce the risk of harming pollinators when using pesticides
- Do not use pesticides on plants in bloom. Be aware of other flowering plants in the area that may be attracting pollinators even when your target plants not in bloom.
- Avoid pesticides drifting to non-target areas – do not spray on windy or very hot days.
- Choose a low toxicity pesticide. High toxicity pesticides kill bees on contact and for one or more days after treatment. These include imidacloprid, permethrin, cyfluthrin and carbaryl. Moderately toxic pesticides can kill on contact but are less dangerous because their residues are not harmful. These include malathion, spinosad, horticultural oils, and insecticidal soaps. These products should be applied when pollinators are less active – early morning, late evening or after sunset. Do not apply in dust form. Do not apply when low temperatures or heavy dew are forecast after application. Low toxicity pesticides cause minimal injury to bees and require few precautions. These include most fungicides and herbicides, BT and neem oil.
Purdue Extension, Department of Entomology “Protecting Honey Bees From Pesticides” June 2014 www.extension.purdue.edu
Pacific Northwest Extension, “How to reduce bee poisoning from pesticides” www.ipm.ucdavis.edu