About Pesticides

What is a pesticide? A pesticide is a substance used to control unwanted plants, insect pests, rodents, or plant diseases. Pesticides include herbicides, insecticides, rodenticides, and fungicides.Of the pesticides, we believe insecticides cause the greatest challenge to pollinators. Using proper application practices when applying any pesticide is very important in keeping pollinators (and people) safe. Over a 30-year history of SETAC workshops, many groups of renowned scientists have produced summaries that are valued by environmental scientists, engineers, regulators, and managers for their technical quality and comprehensive, state-of-the-science reviews. 

General Resources:

For Home

Excerpts below taken from the Solving Your Pest Problems Without Harming Pollinators brochure.

To download the full brochure, Solving Your Pest Problems Without Harming Pollinators, click here
To purchase the printed versions, visit pollinator.org/brochures.

Pollinator-Friendly Pest Control Strategies for Your Home

Use Integrated Pest Management (IPM) around the home.

  • Where possible, avoid pest problems in the first place by burying infested plant residues, removing pest habitat, and planting disease and pest-resistant plant varieties. 
  • Carefully diagnose your pest problem, and, before you apply a pesticide, make sure the pest population has reached a level where control is necessary. 
  • Carefully evaluate your pest control options, and use a combination of pest control techniques if appropriate – these may include beneficial insects, manual removal, traps, a pesticide, etc. 
  • Plant native flowering plant species to support pollinators, choosing species that are naturally resistant to insect pests. 
  • Many native pollinators such as bumble bees live in natural areas and also play an essential role in pollination. Be especially careful when trying to control pests in or near these areas. All butterflies start life as caterpillars, feeding on plants. Learn what type of insect is eating your plants before you inadvertently kill butterflies and other beautiful and beneficial insects.

If you choose to use a pesticide: 

  • Read and follow ALL label directions carefully – use the proper rate (not more or less) at the right time for the correct target pests, and avoid re-applying unnecessarily. 
  • Pay close attention to the Environmental Hazards statement and all pollinator information on the label to determine if special precautions must be taken to protect pollinators. 
  • The label will tell you if the pesticide should not be used on prebloom or blooming plants, and if the pesticide should only be used when bees and other pollinators are not actively foraging (for example, just before dark). Remember that “prebloom or blooming plants” includes ALL plants - garden crops, ornamentals, weeds, native species, etc. Some labels will indicate if application must be delayed until the blooms and pollinators are gone. If in doubt, do not spray. 
  • Dispose of unused pesticides properly. (see earth911.com for disposal sites). 
  • If you handle your pest issues by using pest control professionals, discuss solving your pest problems without harming pollinators. 
  • If you have questions contact your local extension office (http://www.csrees. usda.gov/Extension/), conservation district (http://www.nacdnet.org/about/ districts/directory/) or visit pollinator.org/landscape-pests where you can get help.

For Monarchs

Excerpts below taken from the Protecting Monarchs brochure.

To download the full brochure, Protecting Monarchs, click here
To purchase the printed versions, visit pollinator.org/brochures


Monarchs at Risk? 

Each fall millions of monarch butterflies migrate to overwintering sites in Mexico and to a scattering of locations along the coast of California. In the spring monarchs return to breeding areas and the cycle starts again: a two-way migration that is one of the most spectacular on the planet. Yet, this migration appears to be declining. Researchers are working to determine the causes of this decline; some theories include: 

  • Loss of milkweed needed for monarch caterpillars to grow and develop, due to habitat conversion and adverse land management
  • Drought conditions in California and other areas in the western U.S., resulting in lower milkweed biomass, and reduced availability of milkweed late in the summer 
  • Insecticide and herbicide use to control insects and weeds, with unintended consequences for monarchs
  • Overwintering habitat loss and degradation in California, due to development within and adjacent to overwintering groves, and decay of overwintering trees as they age 
  • Habitat loss in overwintering sites in Mexico, due to illegal logging

What You Can Do: 

  • Help protect monarchs and their migration 
  • Plant milkweed! Monarch caterpillars need milkweeds to grow and develop. There are over 100 milkweed species that are native to North America, many of which are used by monarchs. To learn which species to plant in your region, and how to plant them, visit the Bring Back the Monarchs Campaign at: www.monarchwatch.org/. 
  • Plant butterfly nectar plants! Monarchs need nectar to provide energy as they breed, for their migratory journey, and to build reserves for the long winter. Include butterfly plants in your garden, and avoid using pesticides. 
  • Encourage public land managers to create monarch habitat! Roadsides and parks of all sizes offer great opportunities to create habitat for monarchs and other pollinators. 
  • Join citizen-science efforts to track monarch populations! The data collected by hundreds of citizen scientists across the country are used by monarch scientists to decipher monarch population trends, and to learn more about what might be driving their numbers from year to year. 
  • Support monarch conservation efforts. There are a number of monarch conservation efforts underway doing very good work. Please consider donating to support these monarch

For Farms

Excerpts taken from the Pesticide Applicators brochure.

To download the full brochure, Pesticide Applicators, click here
To purchase the printed versions, visit pollinator.org/brochures

Pollinator Poisoning 

Most pollinator poisoning occurs when pollinator toxic pesticides are applied to crops during the blooming period. Poisoning of pollinators can also result from: 

  • Drift of pesticides onto adjoining crops or plants that are in bloom. 
  • Contamination of flowering ground cover plants when sprayed with pesticides. 
  • Pesticide residues being picked up by foraging pollinators and taken back to the nest/colony. 
  • Pollinators drinking or touching contaminated water sources or dew on recently treated plants.

Remember, YOU, the Pesticide Applicator, are critical to reducing pesticide risk for pollinators.

Use pesticides only when needed. 
Check for “Bee Hazard” warnings and pollinator precautions in the Environmental Hazards statement and in the directions for use on the label. Consider the toxicity to pollinators when selecting a pesticide and formulation and when combining products. 
Guard against drift of pesticides from ground or aerial applications. 
Bloom is a key factor in pollinator exposure to pesticides. When crops or ground cover plants are in bloom:

  • Apply non-ERT (“actively visiting”) pollinator-toxic pesticides in late evening to minimize exposure to pollinators. 
  • Do not apply ERT (“visiting”) pollinatortoxic pesticides. 
  • Avoid applying when lower temperatures will allow dew formation. Dew may re-wet pesticides and increase bee exposure. 
  • Avoid spraying areas where native pollinators live such as hedge rows and natural areas. 
  • Establish good relations and communication with commercial and local beekeepers.