Back to Focus
on Cotton

Mitigating Insect Management
Effects on Pollinators

August 2016

By Scott D. Stewart, Ph.D.
Row Crops IPM Specialist
Department of Entomology
and Plant Pathology
The University of Tennessee

Watch Presentation (9 min 30 sec)

for PC, Mac, and Mobile Devices (7.94 MB)

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Summary: Insecticides and pesticides in general are receiving much blame for real and perceived declines in pollinator health. Cotton has been classified as a high risk crop for pollinators, and regulators are looking closely at insecticide use in this crop. Both cotton farmers and beekeepers need to work together to protect pollinators but also protect themselves from unnecessary regulation that may negatively affect all involved parties. This presentation will outline some simple practices that farmers, pesticide applications, and beekeepers can take to mitigate the negative effects of insecticides, and pesticides in general, on pollinators. To protect managed pollinators, primarily honeybees, those involved need to communicate so that hive locations are known to those applying insecticides and to place beehives where exposure to pesticides in less likely. Insecticide applications should only be made according to label instructions and following good IPM principles. In high risk scenarios where bee hives are located near agricultural fields, particularly those that are flowering, pesticide applicators should take extra steps to reduce drift and make applications late in the day. These practices will also reduce the exposure of native pollinators to pesticides. Beekeepers in the immediate can be notified when bee-toxic pesticides will be applied, giving them the opportunity to move hives placed in high-risk locations. Beekeepers have a responsibility to manage their hives to maintain good bee health, including the appropriate treatment of varroa mites and other pest. These simple steps can greatly reduce the potential exposure of pollinators to pesticides.

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