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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.

PMSP for Honeybees

Virginia and other states are developing pest management strategic plans to help the USDA and the EPA maintain important pest management tools as their registrations are challenged by the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA).

Executive Summary

With the passage of the Food Quality Protection Act, an urgent need has developed to address current pest management issues and embrace alternative or “reduced risk” pest control options for various commodities. The USDA Office of Pest Management Policy (OPMP) is funding the production of Pest Management Strategic Plans (PMSPs), which identify pest management needs and priorities for specific crops in particular regions. These documents are developed through the collaboration of growers, commodity associations, specialists, food processors, crop consultants, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Two workshops were held: one before the Joint North and South Carolina State Beekeepers Conference on March 1, 2007 (Monroe, NC), and one during the Mid-Atlantic Apiculture Research and Extension Consortium (MAAREC) meeting on November 2, 2007 (Winchester, VA). The purpose was to gather input from beekeepers, state apiarists, apiary inspectors, researchers, and other specialists representing various organizations within Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia in order to identify critical pest management needs for honey bees. The following PMSP outlines the management practices used in beekeeping along with the pests and diseases that are most troubling to the apiculture community and industry. Honey bee specialists have assembled data tables to demonstrate the efficacy of currently available chemical and nonchemical control methods. The priorities listed on the following page must be addressed in order to ensure the success of future honey bee production in the mid-Atlantic states.


To view the complete document click HERE


Research Priorities

  • Determine ways to improve overall colony health & productivity; identify factors leading to decline in honey bee health, such as nutrition, stress, & pests; focus on new or current major issues (e.g., mites, CCD, & genetic disorders)
  • Design best management practices (BMPs) related to point above
  • Study mites & develop new control methods
  • Study selective breeding, stock improvement, & means to increase genetic diversity
  • Reduce dependence on chemical control methods
  • Create & disseminate surveys of honey bee diseases & pests to apiarists throughout the mid-Atlantic region
  • Search for & study beneficial or symbiotic organisms within honey bees
  • Develop better diagnostics for AHB
  • Improve understanding of changing bee forage
  • Examine the nutritional quality of GMOs & the impact on honey bees; also, whether modified genetic material is being transferred to bees & possible effects


Educational Priorities

  • Educate public on honey bee best management practices & address misconceptions
  • Share BMPs with beekeepers •    Work to improve viability of beekeeping industry; encourage & educate new or potential beekeepers
  • Improve information transfer techniques (e.g., eXtension)
  • Educate apiarists on changing bee forage
  • Advise public and local agencies on AHB facts, along with appropriate preparations & action plans
  • Promote local & small-scale queen & bee production, as well as local pollination services
  • Provide information on alternative pollinators
  • Inform crop growers of beneficial farming practices that protect pollinators (e.g., timing & planting nectar- bearing plants)
  • Develop & maintain interstate collaborations, such as MAAREC, because working groups may find it easier to get new control methods in the pipeline or registered for beekeeper use


Regulatory Priorities

  • Explore the possibility of reclassifying honey bees as livestock in order to protect beekeepers from economic losses during natural disasters, but only where doing so will not trigger ordinances prohibiting livestock
  • Reduce liability of beekeepers for hive activities
  • Produce lists of certified queen breeders
  • Develop & implement regionally valid hive inspections
  • Train beekeepers in pesticide safety & encourage them to get private applicator licenses


Written and Developed by:

  • Rick Fell - Professor, Virginia Tech Dept. of Entomology, 324 Price Hall, MC 0319, Blacksburg, VA 24061 -
  • Holly Gatton - Project Manager, Virginia Tech Pesticide Programs, Dept. of Entomology, 302 Agnew Hall, MC 0409 Blacksburg, VA 24061 -
  • David Tarpy - Extension Apiculturist, North Carolina State Univ., Dept. of Entomology, Campus Box 7613 Raleigh, NC 27695-7613 -
  • Steve Toth - Associate Director, Southern Region IPM Center, Campus Box 7613, Raleigh, NC 27695-7613 -
  • Mike Weaver - Director, Virginia Tech Pesticide Programs, Dept. of Entomology, 302 Agnew Hall, MC 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 -




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Honey Bees in Field

Click here to see honey bees pollinating clover on the Virginia Tech Drill Field.

Refer to the following guide to learn more about protecting honey bees:

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