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Pesticides and Pollinators

All pollinators are vulnerable to a number of different pesticides. Application of pesticides on flowering plants is the greatest hazard. In 1889, William B. Alwood, horticulturist and pest management specialist at Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College (now Virginia Tech) cautioned grape growers in Albemarle County (VA) to not spray their grapes when in bloom to avoid killing honey bees. Professor Alwood's advice is the most important practice of pollinator protection when dealing with pesticides.

Crop Profile

Honey bees are social insects native to Europe and Asia that were first brought to the Americas in the 1600s. The typical honey bee colony has one queen, 20,000 to 80,000 female workers, and up to 5,000 male drones. The queen’s primary responsibility is reproduction; her eggs will develop into workers, drones, or new queens depending on the time of year and the colony’s strength. Workers have many responsibilities at different stages in their life cycle including brood rearing, queen care, comb building, nest construction, foraging, nest maintenance, honey production and storage, hive thermoregulation, and colony defense. Drones, which serve only for reproduction, die immediately after successfully copulating. Those that fail to mate are thrown out of the nest in the fall. The honey bee population is lowest in winter and peaks in late spring or early summer.

  • Virginia was ranked 39th among honey-producing states in 2004.
  • According to the Virginia Agricultural Statistics Service (VASS), 7,000 honeybee colonies produced 266,000 lbs. of honey worth $567,000 in 2004. However, the actual number of colonies is approximately 38,000 managed hives that produce over 1 million lbs. of honey annually.
  • The average price per pound was $2.13 in 2004.
  • The top five honey-producing counties in 2002 were Clarke, Rockingham, Henry, Loudoun, and Augusta.


To read the crop profile document click HERE



Developed and Written by:

  • Holly A. Gatton, Project Manager, Virginia Tech Pesticide Programs, Department of Entomology, 302 Agnew Hall (0409), Blacksburg, VA 24061 -


Collaborating Authors

Honey Bees:

Rick Fell, Professor, Virginia Tech Department of Entomology, 324 Price Hall, Blacksburg, VA 24061 -


Michael J. Weaver, Professor & Director, Virginia Tech Pesticide Programs, Department of Entomology,  302 Agnew Hall (0409), Blacksburg, VA 24061 -

Edited by:

Susan Terwilliger, Publications Manager and Editor, Virginia Tech Pesticide Programs,  Department of Entomology,  302 Agnew Hall (0409), Blacksburg, VA 24061 -



  1. Virginia Agricultural Statistics Service. 2004. “Ranks of Principal Crops and Livestock 2004.” http://www.nass.usda. gov/va.
  2. Stanghellini, M., and P. Raybold. 2004. “Crop Profile for Honey Bees in New Jersey.” http://www.pestmanagement.
  3. Fell, R.D. 2006. “Regulations and Basic Information: Protecting Honey Bees.” 2006 Virginia Pest Management Guide.


On-Line Resources

Document Actions
Pollinators of SW Virginia
Dan Rather Reports on the Bee Controversy

In September 2011 Dan Rather Reports aired a program looking at the potential impact of systemic pesticides on honey bees. Although the subject is quite controversial and both sides of the issue involve people who want to protect honey bees, but can not agree on a common solution, this subject is one that the public needs to learn about. Research shows that pesticides can impact honey bee health. It is common sense that insecticides will kill bees just by their definition. But this is a complex issue and definitive proof of the cause of the honey bee's demise could be years away. Waiting is a dangerous game because the loss of honey bees continues. Natural pollinators in general are endangered in addition to the domestic honey bee. Pesticides are only a small part of the problem. A total loss of pollinators has occurred in some regions of the world. In the case of some areas of China, humans have replaced honey bees as pollinators to keep fruit crops in production. If this were to happen worldwide the cost of produce and other affected crops would reach unaffordable levels for most consumers.


Bee Aware from Greg Stanley on Vimeo.


Virginia Tech is not responsible for the origination of this broadcast or claims copyright of the intellectual properties, which are owned by Dan Rather Reports and the originating broadcaster. The video copy resides on Vimeo's server, posted there by an individual. We post the link here as a public service. Our link in no way promotes violation of copyright or do we claim responsibility for reproduction or rebroadcast of this program. That responsibility is assumed by Vimeo.

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