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Integrated Pest Management · Agriculture and Natural Resources

University of California

Protecting natural enemies and pollinators

honey bee

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.
Time applications
  • 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.

Agricultural crops

Homes and landscapes

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