1.3 Pollinator Protection
Honey bees, wild bees, and other insects are important for proper pollination of many crops. Poor pollination results in small or odd-shaped fruit as well as low yields. Many factors affect pollinator health including lack of seasonal forage, parasites, predators, pathogens, lack of genetic diversity, and pesticide exposure.
To avoid harming bees, remember these general points:
- Before using a pesticide, always read the label for specific pollinator protection requirements;
- Do not spray or allow the pesticide to drift onto blooming crops or weeds;
- Mow blooming weeds before treatment or spray when the blossoms are closed;
- Avoid application during the time of day when bees are most numerous;
- Make applications in the early morning or evening; and
- Avoid making applications over or allowing drift onto hives or apiaries.
Labels on pesticides that are highly toxic to honey bees may carry warnings about hazards to bees and other pollinators. If pesticide sprays that are highly toxic to bees are used in strict accordance with label directions, little to no harm should be done to bees. Note that some pesticides with relatively low toxicity to honey bees can be made more toxic when mixed with other pesticides. Special care should be taken with tank mixes where pollinator safety may be unknown.
EPA has established bee labeling requirements for nitroguanidine neonicotinoid-containing pesticides (imidacloprid, dinotefuran, clothianidin, thiamethoxam) with outdoor foliar uses on their label. These labels have a bee icon and an advisory box with information on routes of exposure and spray drift precautions.
In 2017 the EPA adopted a risk-based pollinator protection policy. This policy describes EPA's approach to assessing those pesticide products and uses that may pose a risk to bees under contract pollination services. If the use poses a risk, language will be added to the product's label with directions on how to use the product for a given crop when contracted bees are present. More on EPA's policy can be found at https://www.epa.gov/pollinator-protection/policy-mitigating-acute-risk-bees-pesticide-products.
New York State has developed its own pollinator protection plan that discusses the status of pollinators in New York State and how they can be protected. To view the plan online, visit www.dec.ny.gov/docs/administration_ pdf/ nyspollinatorplan.pdf.
The Pollinator Network @ Cornell has developed Pesticide Decision-Making Guides to Protect Pollinators that are available at https://pollinator.cals.cornell.edu/resources/ grower-resources/. These Guides provide information that is not found on pesticide labels, such as whether applying two specific pesticide active ingredients in combination poses more risk to bees than applying either pesticide alone.
Additional information on pollinator protection can be found online at: www2.epa.gov/pollinator-protection and pesticidestewardship.org/PollinatorProtection/Pages/ default.aspx.