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Protect Our Pollinators When Using Pesticides (07/03/13)

Agricultural production is in full swing in North Dakota, and flowering field crops or weeds in the field are important food sources of many species of pollinators, including honey bees and native bees.

Protect Our Pollinators When Using Pesticides

Agricultural production is in full swing in North Dakota, and flowering field knodel.honey_bee_foraging.pngcrops or weeds in the field are important food sources of many species of pollinators, including honey bees and native bees. Bees are attracted to blooming field crops, such as canola and sunflowers, and even weeds, such as dandelions, wild mustard, white clover and goldenrod, in the field for nectar and/or pollen. Remember if you need to spray a flowering crop with insecticide or any other pesticide, please read, understand and follow the label and protect our pollinators against pesticide poisoning or spray drift. North Dakota leads the nation in honey production and our honey bees are a valuable and needed resource! The value of bee pollination is estimated at 14.6 billion dollars in the United States. With the reduction in number of domestic and wild bee colonies due to colony collapse disorder and other diseases, the value of honeybees and native bees for pollination has increased. This increases the importance of protecting bees from pesticide poisoning. Let’s try to avoid any pollinator kills like the example below.

Last week, the EPA notified the Office of Pest Management Policy regarding a large bumble bee kill in Oregon involving a landscaper using an insecticide (Safari, IRAC Group 4A, neonicotinoids) to control aphids in linden trees at a Target parking lot. EPA has been notified that as of last night (8 pm ET), the State of Oregon has issued a 180 day “don’t use” moratorium on the product. The investigation is ongoing. This event indicates a need to remind users of pesticides about the absolute importance of reading and following the label – and to pay particular attention to WARNINGS. While this was not a result of an agricultural application and was an urban use, the EPA has asked if OPMP can work thru the land grant system to get the word out through extension and education offices to reinforce this very important message to the agricultural community. (Source:  David Epstein, USDA Office of Pest Management Policy)

Use of any pesticide in any way that is not consistent with label directions and precautions is illegal. It may also be ineffective and dangerous. The environmental hazard section of labels may include specific restrictions that protect bees. Language that describe bee pesticide restrictions are while “actively visiting (foraging in field)” and “visiting (flying through a field).”

Bees are actively foraging when there is daylight and temperatures are above 60 F. Because bees forage up to two and half miles or more from their hive, all beekeepers within two to three miles of the area to be treated with insecticide should be notified several days before the insecticide is to be applied. The names of beekeepers can be obtained by going to the North Dakota Department of Agriculture’s bee website.

The basic steps in reducing pesticide risks for pollinators are:

  • Know and communicate with beekeepers about hive locations.
  • Use economic thresholds and other IPM strategies. Economic thresholds ensure that pesticides are used only when crop losses prevented by pesticide use are greater than the cost of the pesticide and the application.
  • Use pesticides with low toxicity and low residual to bees. For example, avoid using dusts or wettable powder insecticide formulations because they generally are more toxic to bees.
  • Evening or early morning applications are the least harmful to bees, because fewer bees are foraging.

Never apply pesticides outdoors on a windy day (winds higher than 10 mph) which could cause spray drift problems.

 

Janet J. Knodel

Extension Entomologist

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