PESTICIDE LABELS HELP PROTECT BEES, by Sheila Dunning UF/IFAS Extension Agent

pollinator

Watch for changes on pesticide labels that contain pollinator-protection language.

Language to protect pollinators has always been on the label, but now the verbiage specifically prohibits foliar applications while bees or flowers are present, or until all petals have fallen off. Presence of all blooming plants, including weeds such as clover and Spanish needle, must be evaluated before treating with certain pesticides.

The EPA has mandated label changes to neonicotinoid products with the active ingredients imidacloprid, dinotefuron, clothianidin or thiamethoxam.  Some brands that contain these chemicals include Safari, Arena, Flagship, Merit and many Bayer products such as Tree and Shrub, Complete Insect Killer, and Fruit, Citrus and Vegetable Insect Control.

The new language, located on the label’s “Directions for Use” section,  is accompanied by the bee icon. Additionally, there will be an advisory bee box placed in the “Environmental Hazard” section.

For pollinators, acute toxicity from pesticides can result from direct contact, exposure to residues on foliage and/or flowers, or from consumption of the pesticide in nectar or pollen.

Not all insecticides have the same effects when prepared in different formulations.

Microencapsulated insecticides tend to be more toxic to honey bees than other formulations.

Granular formulations are dissolved and activated during rain or irrigation, when bees are less active, and are distributed directly into the soil.   

Systemic insecticides can be delivered in any formulation, and they warrant additional consideration. The plant absorbs the active ingredient, which may be translocated to nectar, pollen and vascular fluids, thus being available to foraging bees.

Whenever possible, the use of contact insecticides in less toxic formulations can reduce potential harm to bees.

The goal in using a pesticide is to achieve maximum benefit with minimum negative impact. The new pollinator-protection language will outline how best to do that. 

Remember, the label is the law, but protecting bees is critical to our food production.

DID YOU KNOW?

●Honey bees are Florida’s most important pollinator; at least 13 major crops depend on them for fruit production. 

●More than 315 other species of bees in Florida also play a role in pollination of agricultural crops and landscape plants.

●More than 3,000 registered beekeepers are in Florida as of 2014.

●Florida law requires each apiary or bee yard to be clearly marked with the owner’s name, address and telephone number.

●For crops under contracted pollination service, if a pesticide application must be made when managed bees are at the treatment site, the beekeeper must be notified no less than 48 hours prior to the time of the planned application so that the bees can be relocated and protected.

●For food crops and landscapes not under contract for pollination services that are attractive to pollinators, the required conditions include compliance with at least one of the following: application after sunset, when temperatures are below 55 degrees Fahrenheit, in accordance with a government-initiated public health response; after notifying area beekeepers on the apiary registry; or as part of a documented IPM plan that addresses an imminent threat of significant crop loss.

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