The label will indicate if a pesticide is toxic to bees when the application contacts them directly or by residues. Before using the pesticide, look under the “Environmental Hazards” and “Directions for Use” headings for any precautions that need to be taken. See the following example.
BEE CAUTION: MAY KILL HONEY BEES AND OTHER BEES IN SUBSTANTIAL NUMBERS.
This product is highly toxic to bees exposed to direct treatment or residues on crops or weeds in bloom.
For crops in bloom, do not apply this product to target crops or weeds in bloom. Notifying beekeepers within 1 mile of the treatment area at least 48 hours before the product is applied will allow them to take additional steps to protect their bees. Limiting application to times when bees are least active, e.g., within 2 hours of sunrise or sunset, will minimize risk to bees.
Many labels warn against the use of the product on blooming crops by indicating: “Do not apply to blooming crops or weeds if bees are visiting in the treatment area.” “Visiting the treatment area” refers to bees that may visit the plants after treatment (the bees may or may not be working the crop at the time when the pesticide application is planned) and pertains to products that display residual toxicity (see Pesticide Toxicity to Bees). Such products require a higher level of care in avoiding pollinator exposure by not applying them while the crop, or other plants in the area, are in bloom. Realize that the application “window” (the period when the timing is right) may be reduced due to factors such as extended crop bloom or unfavorable weather conditions (see Pesticide Applicator BMPs). “Actively visiting the treatment area” refers to bees you see on plants and pertains to products that do not show Residual Toxicity.
The North American Pollinator Protection Campaign has published an infographic that depicts where specific precautions and terms such as “Foraging” or “Visiting” and “Actively Foraging” or “Actively Visiting” can be found on a pesticide label. The infographic with a list of actions to minimize pesticide exposure to bees is entitled Protect Pollinators Read Pesticide Labels: Four steps to reading a pesticide label to reduce risk to pollinating insects (click here to view as a PDF).
In current labeling, any reference to bees “actively visiting,” “actively foraging,” or “visiting,” must be replaced with “foraging.”
Labeling for certain Neonicotinoid Pesticides:
EPA requires that labels for products containing clothianidin, dinotefuran, imidacloprid, or thiamethoxan that have use directions for outdoor foliar application include a “Pollinator Protection Box” (click here to view), as well as new pollinator language to be added to the Directions for Use section of each label. There are also distinct application restrictions for neonicotinoid products being applied to crops and ornamentals that are blooming and attractive to bees.
Pesticide applicators should be aware that for neonicotinoid and other pesticides, EPA will incorporate label directions and use restrictions as chemical-specific pollinator assessments are completed through an ongoing registration review process.
John W. Allran reviewed and contributed to this page. He was the Environmental Toxicologist with the NC Dept. of Ag. & Consumer Services, Structural Pest Control & Pesticides Division and now works with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.