By Chad Hobbs
Farmers have taken some dings in recent years over bee colonies collapsing. Studies show, however, that pesticides applied by homeowners, backyard gardeners, landscape professionals, golf courses, and industrial or municipal applicators pose as great a risk to pollinators as chemicals applied on farm lands.
The Kentucky Department of Agriculture (KDA) states the greatest threats occur when broad-spectrum insecticides are applied to crops, weeds, or other plants while they are in bloom; when they are applied during the daylight hours when pollinators are foraging; and when chemical spray drifts onto colonies.
The KDA provides the following suggestions to help minimize risks to pollinators:
• Be aware of honey bee hives or habitats for other pollinators near fields to be treated with pesticides.
• Use Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and economic thresholds to determine if insecticides are required to manage pests. When insecticides are required, consider using insecticides with low toxicity to bees, short residual toxicity, or repellent properties towards bees.
• Avoid dusts and wettable powder insecticide formulations if possible. Granular and liquid formulations are safer for pollinators since granules are not typically picked up by bees, and liquids dry onto plant surfaces.
• Pesticides toxic to pollinators should be applied when bees are less active. Pollinators are most active during daylight hours between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. and when the temperature is over 55 degrees.
• Avoid applying when low temperatures will allow dew formation. Dew may re-wet pesticides and increase pollinator exposure.
• Minimize pesticide drift. Do not spray on windy days, not only can this cause risks to pollinators, but it is not economical to the applicator either since the chemical is not applied where it is needed.