Protecting pollinators around the home and garden

Jun 24, 2016

Adult honey bee [Photo by J. K. Clark]
In observance of National Pollinator Week, we thought we'd share how you can manage pests around your home, garden, and landscape and still protect pollinators.

Natural enemies (predators, parasites, and pathogens) reduce pest populations and help prevent damage to plants. Pollinators such as domesticated honey bees, wild bees, and other pollinating insects, are essential in the production of many of the fruits, vegetables, and nuts we grow in California, both in our backyards and in commercial agriculture.

Adult syrphid fly.[Photo by J.K. Clark]
Natural enemies and pollinators can be harmed by pesticides and their populations are often more affected by pesticides than the targeted pests. For instance, many plant pests are stationary, while natural enemies and pollinators move about, and could 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:

Identify the pest

  • It is important to first identify your pest and learn which nonchemical methods may work to exclude, repel, or reduce the pest. The UC IPM web site contains a great deal of information for home, garden, landscape, and turf pests.

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

  • If a pesticide is needed, consult the UC IPM 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. Use sparingly or only when necessary.
  • Be aware that broad-spectrum (nonselective) herbicides and herbicides applied for broadleaf weeds, reduce the abundance of floral plants that attract and feed pollinators and natural enemies.

See the UC IPM web site for more information about pesticides, controlling pests, and protecting pollinators and other organisms.

By Karey Windbiel-Rojas
Author - Associate Director for Urban & Community IPM/ Area Urban IPM Advisor