On-line Notification System for Applicators to Communicate with Local Beekeepers

There has been some controversy surrounding the use of some pesticides and their effect on pollinator health, particularly honey bees. Dr. Tammy Potter, state apiarist, at the Kentucky Department of Agriculture has developed an online tool to facilitate communication among pesticide applicators and their local beekeepers. This registry system can be used when, under specific circumstances as indicated by pesticide labels, applicators must notify beekeepers 48 hours prior to certain types of applications.

Figure 1. Restrictions appear on the insecticide labels of products that pose a risk to honey bees.

Pollinator Protection Label Requirements

The pesticides which pose the greatest potential risk to managed pollinators have honey bee icons on the label to warn applicators and impose specific restrictions in some situations. While this is a small group of active ingredients that have been shown to be acutely toxic to honey bees, these active ingredients are formulated into dozens of insecticide products.  When these products are used where there are no crops or weeds in bloom and bees are not foraging in the treated area, there is little risk. However, when there are foraging bees in the treated area, additional restrictions are imposed. These labels distinguish crops attractive to pollinators that are under contracted pollination services and those not under contract for pollination but.

Crops Using Contracted Pollination Services

These labels state “Do not apply this product while bees are foraging. Do not apply this product until flowering is complete and all petals have fallen unless the following condition has been met: If an application must be made when bees are at the treatment site, the beekeeper providing pollination services must be notified no less than 48-hours prior to the time of the planned application so the bees can be removed, covered, or otherwise protected prior to spraying.” Since the beekeeper has a contract with the beekeeper, there should already be established communication between the crop manager and beekeeper. Simply notifying the pollination contract beekeeper 48 hours ahead with the name of the product prior to the application gives the beekeeper time to take actions to protect the honey bees.

Crops without Pollination Contracts

For food and ornamental crops not under contract for pollination services there is a similar restriction while bees are foraging; however, the conditions permitting applications are different.  An application would be permitted if one of the five following conditions is met:

  1. The application is made after sunset
  2. The application is made to the target site when temperatures are below 55˚F
  3. The application is made in response to a public health emergency
  4. The application is made in accordance with an active state-administered apiary registry program where beekeepers are notified no less than 48 hours prior to the time of planned application so beekeepers can take actions to protect their bees, or
  5. If the application is to prevent economic losses, and documented determination consistent with an IPM plan is met, and every effort is made to notify beekeepers no less than 48-hours prior to the planned application

The online tool that has been developed helps applicators fulfill the third option, making the application in accordance with a state-administered apiary registry. This is a voluntary program and gives pesticide applicators one additional alternative.

KDA Pollinator Protection App

The Kentucky Department of Agriculture has developed a tool to help pesticide applicators comply with some of these label requirements. This on-line state registry is intended to facilitate communication among pesticide applicators and their neighboring beekeepers so that beekeepers are alerted in advance to pesticide applications that require notification.

The system requires beekeepers to register their honey bee colony locations initially. Then if a pesticide applicator is planning to make an application that requires beekeeper notification, the applicator can submit the planned application 48-hours in advance. The system then notifies registered beekeepers of honey bee colonies within 5 miles of the application that a high risk application will be made in 48-hours. This gives the beekeeper time to protect the colonies in that area.  The beekeepers are anonymous, and others cannot see their colony locations. In addition, the person making the application is anonymous; the beekeeper is alerted that an application will be made within 5 miles of their bees without knowing who is making the application.

Figure 2. This is the page an applicator would use to highlight the field to be treated. Only the applicator would be able to see the exact location of application.

This notification system, as well as instructions on how to use it, is located on the Kentucky Department of Agriculture website.  This is a voluntary system; it provides another option to help applicators comply with the beekeeper notification requirements with some insecticide labels.


Ric Bessin, Extension Entomologist



Posted in Pesticide Topics
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