- Author: UC Statewide IPM Program
Various insects, birds, and other animals pollinate plants. Bees, especially honey bees, are the most vital for pollinating food crops. Many California crops rely on bees to pollinate their flowers and ensure a good yield of seeds, fruit, and nuts. Pesticides, especially insecticides, can harm bees if they are applied or allowed to drift to plants that are flowering.
Our mission at the University of California Agricultural and Natural Resources (UC ANR), Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program (UC IPM) is to protect the environment by reducing risks caused by pest management practices. UC IPM developed Bee Precaution Pesticide Ratings to help pest managers make an informed decision about how to protect bees when choosing or applying pesticides. You can find and compare ratings for pesticide active ingredients including acaricides (miticides), bactericides, fungicides, herbicides, and insecticides, and select the one posing the least harm to bees.
Ratings fall into three categories. Red, or rated I, pesticides should not be applied or allowed to drift to plants that are flowering. Plants include the crop AND nearby weeds. Yellow, or rated II, pesticides should not be applied or allowed to drift to plants that are flowering, except when the application is made between sunset and midnight if allowed by the pesticide label and regulations. Finally, green, or rated III, pesticides have no bee precautions, except when required by the pesticide label or regulations. Pesticide users must follow the product directions for handling and use and take at least the minimum precautions required by the pesticide label and regulations.
A group of bee experts in California, Oregon, and Washington worked with UC IPM to develop the Bee Precaution Pesticide Ratings. They reviewed studies published in scientific journals and summary reports from European and United States pesticide regulatory agencies. While the protection statements on the pesticide labels were taken into account when determining the ratings, it is important to stress that UC IPM's ratings are not the pollinator protection statements on the pesticide labels. In a number of cases, the ratings suggest a more protective action than the pesticide label.
The UC IPM ratings also include active ingredients that may not be registered in your state; please follow local regulations. In California, the suggested use of the bee precaution pesticide ratings is in conjunction with UC Pest Management Guidelines (for commercial agriculture) and Pest Notes (for gardeners). Each crop in the UC Pest Management Guidelines has a link to the Bee Precaution Pesticide Ratings database and provides guidance on how to reduce bee poisoning from pesticides.
“According to a UC Berkeley news report,about one-third of the value of California agriculture comes from pollinator-dependent crops, representing a net value of $11.7 billion per year.”
We hear about the decline in honeybees (non-native, from Europe and the most commonly managed bees), but native bees are declining too and in many instances these are the pollinators of California avocado. The loss of any pollinators is a loss for agriculture as well as the environment. But here are the loss charts.
Next year will be better.
Bumblebee doing its thing
Two years ago we set out to study the impact of native bees on avocado fruit set. We applied for several grants unsuccessfully and turned to growers to see if there was interest. We raised $6,000 to start the project and have established 4 sites in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. in the meantime have gotten a Sustainable Agricultural Research and Extension grant. This grant does not start until October 2014. We need bridging funds to continue this study. Below is the original request from growers for funds. If you would help contribute it will keep this study going until the larger grant comes through. Thank you.
Dr. Gordon Frankie at UC Berkeley is teaming with Dr. Ben Faber from the Ventura County UCCE Extension to jointly work on a pollination study for avocados. Dr. Frankie is studying how to increase native bee pollinators in avocado orchards. To do this, we plan on surveying the native bees that are in the area, identify the plants that they are foraging on and then plant those species in orchards to lure indigenous bees + pollinators in to the orchards. These plants will also be monitored for their attractiveness to beneficial insects which could control avocado thrips, persea mite along with other pests. We will need some startup money to cover the costs of native plants plus travel for Dr. Frankie and his assistant to be able to come down to monitor the project. They are ready and willing to come do this important study. We have applied for UC grants and will apply to CA Avocado Commission and CDFA Specialty Crops for money, but we will not see that money until summer 2014 at the earliest. We need your help. It would help to plant the natives before the winter rains. They need the rain to bloom; so the sooner you can help, the sooner we can plant. We are trying to cobble together donations of about $3,000. Thank you in advance. Any contributions are tax deductible and can be made to: UC Berkeley Foundation (with a notation at the bottom of the check: Gordon Frankie Bee Lab) and sent to Dept of Environmental Sciences, UC Berkeley, 130 Mulford Hall #3114, Berkeley, CA 94720.
A new publication, "How to Attract and Maintain Pollinators in Your Garden," (Publication 8498) has been added UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (ANR) catalog. The document is a collaboration of UC experts which includes an entomologist, laboratory assistants, landscape designer, photographer, and pomology expert.
Pollination is crucial to the survival of much of our ecosystems and maintaining viable environments for them to thrive provides not only benefits to personal outdoor space, but adds to the well being of the community at large.
This publication focuses on ways to make your garden and outdoor environment, including avocado orchards more attractive to pollinators by identifying pollinators and the plants and landscaping practices that appeal to them.
ANR Publication 8498 is free of charge and available as a downloadable PDF.
You can download this publication here.
- Author: Ruben Alarcon
Pollination ecologists have typically studied a focal plant species and one or a few closely related pollinator taxa, such as bumblebees, which fostered the view that plant-pollinator relationships are highly specialized. However recent community-scale studies have revealed that many pollination systems are generalized, such that plants are visited by diverse, and spatiotemporally variable, pollinator assemblages. My goal is to reconcile traditional views of "specialized" floral adaptation with ecological generalization. Specifically my lab will be incorporating aspects of pollinator foraging behavior and flower/pollinator phenotype, into the analysis of plant-pollinator communities using network techniques. To address this issue my lab is exploring several plant-pollinator systems, including sub-alpine meadows in Colorado and California, the Sonoran Desert of southern Arizona, as well as the coastal sage scrub community surrounding the CSUCI campus.
From an applied perspective my lab is also working to maintain honeybee populations for crop pollination. In the United States over 130 crops require insect pollination, with nearly one-third of our diet coming from honeybee pollination services. However, over the last several years large numbers of honeybee colonies have been lost to Colony Collapse Disorder. Working with beekeepers and growers, my lab is trying to assess the benefits of providing supplemental forage for colonies transported to California every winter to pollinate almonds. We are also available to assist Ventura County beekeepers in identifying Nosema microsporidian infections and to monitor parasitic mites.
In addition to working with honeybees my lab also studies the nesting and foraging behavior of native bees, including the Blue Orchard Bee, Osmia lignaria. By furthering our understanding of native bee biology we hope to increase their use as sustainable pollinators. In collaboration with the UC Cooperative Extensions, Ventura County, we will also be studying how native bees could be used to improve avocado pollination.