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Pollinator Protection

There have been widespread reports, from  scientists and the media, about global declines in pollinators such as bees and butterflies. These reports suggest many reasons for the declines, but no single cause has been identified. The best scientific evidence suggests that pollinator declines are due to many interacting factors.

Despite the lack of evidence supporting a single cause for pollinator declines, pesticides are often named as the leading threat to bee health. While it has been demonstrated that bees are highly sensitive to certain pesticides (pyrethroid and neonicotinoid insecticides in particular), there is currently no evidence to indicate that responsible, legal applications of pesticides are the main cause of global bee declines.

This site is a resource you can rely on to present science-based information about:

  • Effects of pesticides on pollinators (specifically bees).
  • How you can minimize the risks to pollinators if you choose to use a pesticide.
  • Efforts being made by Virginia Tech, the Virginia Department of Agriculture, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to safeguard bees and other pollinators from pesticide misuse.

All insects in the order Hymenoptera (bees, ants, and wasps) have been shown to be more susceptible to certain types of insecticides when compared to other insects. This is because they lack certain enzymes to adequately detoxify these pesticides. A thorough explanation of pesticide toxicity to bees can be found here.

Due to the sensitivity of bees to some insecticides, the EPA has developed guidelines and increased label requirements that applicators (including homeowners) must follow when using certain chemicals. These guidelines have been organized into a “bee advisory box” which is included on some federal pesticide labels to notify users of the need for added precautions. In addition, there are Best Management Practices (BMPs) that everyone should follow.

  • Apply pesticides when the bees are not flying — early in the morning or preferably at dusk or after dark.
  • Never apply pesticides directly to blooms.
  • Apply pesticides in a manner that minimizes drift onto blooming plants.

A thorough list and explanation of BMPs can be found here.