Protect Pollinators from Pesticides

Pollinators, such as bees, wasps, butterflies, and flies, can be exposed to pesticides by

  1. being hit by spray droplets during an application,
  2. contacting spray residues on treated plants, and/or,
  3. consuming a pesticide as nectar and pollen are collected.
Figure 1. Sweat bee and bumble bee gathering pollen and nectar. (Photo: Lee Townsend, UK)

Figure 1. Sweat bee and bumble bee gathering pollen and nectar. (Photo: Lee Townsend, UK)

Here are some ways to protect pollinators when pesticide applications are needed:

  • Read the label carefully. Follow any specific requirements to protect pollinators.
  • Avoid applying insecticides and fungicides to any plant in bloom.
  • Be aware of your surroundings and weather conditions, especially wind speed and direction. Do not allow pesticide spray droplets to drift onto nearby flowering plants.
  • Apply pesticides only after petals have fallen so flowers are less attractive to pollinators.
  • If you must spray plants in bloom to save a crop, choose a pesticide/formulation with the lowest toxicity to bees and other pollinators.
  • Organophosphate/carbamate, neonicotinoid, and pyrethroid insecticides have high residual toxicity to bees and other pollinators.
  • Pesticide formulations affect residual toxicity of an active ingredient. Dust (D) > Wettable powder (WP) > Liquid (L) or Flowable (F) > Emulsifiable concentrate (EC).
  • Use the lowest labeled rate. For example, the extended residual toxicity to bees of a particular pyrethroid insecticide is 1 day at the highest use rate; at the low rate it is 4 to 6 hours.
  • Avoid using any systemic insecticide on plants even after bloom if that product lasts until next season’s bloom period. Imidacloprid persists; dinotefuran is active only during the current season.



By Lee Townsend, Extension Entomologist

Posted in Fruit, Vegetables