Integrated Pest Management · Agriculture and Natural Resources
University of California
Protecting natural enemies and pollinators
The natural enemies of pests (predators, parasites, or pathogens) help prevent damage to plants by reducing pest populations. Pollinators such as wild bees and commercial honey bees are essential for many California crops.
Natural enemies and pollinators can be harmed by pesticides and they are often more susceptible than the targeted pest. For instance, many plant pests are stationary, while natural enemies and pollinators move about, and may encounter pesticide residues in more places.
To maintain healthy populations of natural enemies and pollinators, use integrated pest management (IPM). As part of an IPM program, follow these guidelines:
Use pesticides sparingly and spot-treat
- Before applying any pesticide, read and follow all the product label directions.
- Target the application to the specific area where the pest is a problem to reduce the harm to natural enemies and pollinators.
Choose selective and nonpersistent pesticides
- Identify the pest, and use the resources on this website to determine which pesticides will specifically control that pest.
- Avoid broad-spectrum, persistent insecticides. Carbamates, organophosphates, and pyrethroids kill many different invertebrates and leave residues that kill pollinators, parasites, and predators that migrate in after the application.
- Neonicotinoids and other systemic insecticides translocate (move) within plants and can poison bees and natural enemies that feed on nectar, pollen, and liquids that plants ooze (guttation).
- Avoid mixing insecticides with fungicides.
- Be aware that broad-spectrum herbicides and herbicides applied for broadleaf weeds, reduce floral plants that attract and feed pollinators and natural enemies.
- To protect pollinators, avoid spraying when plants are in bloom.
- Apply pesticides between sunset and midnight, when bees are not present.
Communicate with beekeepers
Talk about your pesticide applications with nearby beekeepers and know where colonies are located. Healthy bee populations and abundant nectar sources create a mutually beneficial relationship between beekeepers and growers.
- Use the Pest Management Guidelines to look up the impact of specific pesticides on natural enemies and pollinators. Each crop has a table of Relative Toxicities of Insecticides and Miticides to Natural Enemies and Honey Bees in the General Information section.
- Pesticide Applicator Best Management Practices, Pesticide Environmental Stewardship
- Best Management Practices for Pest Control During Bloom, Almond Board of California
Homes and landscapes
- For home and landscape pesticide use, assess the hazards of particular pesticides using the Home & Landscape active ingredients database.
- 10 Ways to Protect Bees from Pesticides , Washington State
- How to Attract and Maintain Pollinators in Your Garden , University of California
- Natural Enemies
- Natural Enemies Handbook
- Natural Enemies Gallery
- Biological Control and Natural Enemies
- Beneficial Predators
- Parasites of Insect Pests
- Protecting Bees and Other Pollinators from Pesticides, United States Environmental Protection Agency
- Pollinator Conservation Resource Center, Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation
- How to Reduce Bee Poisoning from Pesticides , from Pacific Northwest Extension
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