Protecting pollinators during pesticide applications – PCT


For Pest Management Professionals (PMP), pollinators are usually not a priority, but they should be considered.

Most discussions around pollinators take place in the agricultural and landscaping spheres, but many of the chemicals we rely on are used in all sectors of industry. New regulations or labeling requirements imposed on active ingredients may impact our work.

We can minimize any potential negative impact on our industry if we approach this conversation as an ally rather than an adversary, and as such we need to have basic knowledge about pollinators.

Pollinators are simply animals involved in pollination. Pollination is the transfer of reproductive material (pollen) from the anther of one flower to the stigma of another. Pollination is carried out by a wide range of animals, including birds, bats, beetles, flies, butterflies, moths and, of course, bees.

POLLINATORS AND ECONOMY. Pollinators are estimated to contribute up to $24 billion to the US economy each year. Undoubtedly, honey bees provide the bulk of this value and are estimated to be worth around $15 billion through direct pollination services, honey production and other bee-related products such as propolis and honey. wax. Bees contribute to the production of nearly a third of all food produced and are necessary for most cash crops.

The presence of bees can also improve crop production where pollinators are not needed. For example, one of my favorite beverages, coffee, comes from a self-pollinating tree. The presence of bees in coffee fields can improve yields by up to 30%. That translates to 100 million cups of coffee per year in the United States alone.

For most people, the overly general statement “no bees, no food” ends the conversation, but pollination is much more complex than that. Pollinators other than bees such as flies and butterflies are also important. Perhaps one of the best examples of non-bee pollination is cocoa, the refined chocolate plant. Several species of gnat flies are essential for pollinating these plants due to the small size and shape of the flower.

LEGAL OBLIGATIONS. There are too many insects and animals involved in pollination to cover in one article, but honey bees are at the center of public attention, and therefore regulatory efforts. The Western or European bee (Apis mellifera) is the most common species managed by humans and is the dominant species in Europe and the Americas.

Due to their beneficial nature, bees may have special legal protections in some places. A good resource on bee pest management and legal obligations is your state agriculture department or local university extension officers.

In addition to laws, there are often requirements for pesticides intended for outdoor use, and these can usually be found in the environmental hazards section of the label.

ALL ABOUT BEES. Bees belong to the order Hymenoptera, related to ants and wasps. It is a eusocial insect living in colonies of up to 60,000 individuals. Bees use a caste system and have complex communication systems. They feed on the nectar produced by the flowers.

During feeding, plant pollen sticks to the hairs of the bee and is carried from flower to flower. Bees prefer flowers that are yellow or blue and tubular in shape with a landing platform. Once a food source is located, other bees are recruited using pheromones and a “dance”. Bees generally have a range of up to 2 miles from the hive.

Bees tend to be present in the hottest parts of the day, with the early afternoon being their most active time outside the hive.

Knowing what bees prefer and when they are active allows PMPs to modify their work to minimize the impact on bees.

PESTICIDES AND POLLINATORS. Pesticides, especially insecticides, are important tools in our industry. The simplest thing we can do to reduce our impact on pollinators is to address the favorable conditions that attract pests, thereby reducing the need for pesticides. Talking to your customers and working in partnership to eliminate these conditions will result in effective pest control over the long term.

We can also change the time of day that we schedule certain types of work, such as mosquito prevention, to minimize our likelihood of encountering bees. Earlier in the day, bees are less active, so there is less chance of direct contact with insecticides.

As PMPs, we have a lot of control over how and where pesticides are applied. By choosing pesticides that are less toxic to bees and applying them in a more targeted way, we can reduce the risks to bees.

One group of chemicals, the neonicotinoids, is getting a lot of attention because these chemicals are very toxic to bees. Imidacloprid, acetamiprid, dinotefuran, thiamethoxam and clothianidin are all neonicotinoids. Products containing these active ingredients receive special labeling to alert users.

Using alternatives to these pesticides in areas where bees are more likely to be present can reduce the risk. Pyrethrin-based insecticides are a good example of an alternative commonly used in industry. As always, read all product labels carefully. In many cases, the label prohibits direct contact with bees foraging in the area; however, your local regulations may require enhanced procedures.

Formulation is another consideration that can be controlled by the PMP. Due to the use pattern, granular or powder formulations pose a lower risk to bees. Because the granules sort quickly at ground level, bees are unlikely to come into contact with these insecticides. Dusts can generally only be applied to cracks and crevices, so are unlikely to impact bees.

Pest control services for flying insects like mosquitoes present one of our greatest risks to pollinators. To effectively prevent flying insects from entering structures, we generally treat the vegetation around the structure, as this is where flying insects rest. Performing a visual inspection and scheduling services earlier in the day can reduce overall risk.

ENVIRONMENTAL FACTORS. As with any outdoor job, environmental considerations like rain or wind are also a factor. Drift management is generally not a significant concern as we primarily apply pesticides directly on or near structures. That said, areas that are more exposed to the wind or very dry areas can experience pesticide drift.

Pesticide drift simply occurs when pesticide residues are transported away from the site of application. The most common cause is the wind. Drift can take your pesticides where bees are actively foraging, causing you to commit a label violation, which can lead to potential bee death.

Drift management requires planning and, for the purposes of a PMP, is mostly done mechanically: either adjust your spray pattern to have larger droplets, or bring your sprayer flow closer to the target.

WHEN BEES ARE THE PEST. Another consideration: what if bees were the pest? Honey bees can infest structures, posing risks to occupants. The result is that you can be hired to clear the hive.

In the context of protecting pollinators, explore the relocation of hives. Relocation involves working with a professional beekeeper who captures the queen. The colony moves with the queen, this way we can eliminate the problem without harming the pollinator.

In this situation, arrangements should be made to remove the material from the hive to avoid further pest problems.

FINAL THOUGHTS. You can reduce the risk to pollinators with a little thought and care. Consider adopting a formal Integrated Pest Management (IPM) plan into your regular work.

Our company does not apply pesticides, it controls pests. Identifying and eliminating favorable conditions, accurately identifying pests and guiding source control methods are our most effective approaches.

You can also get involved by working with our partners in other industries. Work and communicate with local beekeeping associations, colleges, extension agents, agricultural and beekeeping training programs to hear their concerns and collaborate on solutions. Sometimes it’s as simple as having a conversation.

Steve Russo, BCE, is the regional support manager for Terminix Hawaii. He sits on the Hawaii Pesticide Advisory Committee.

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