Do your part to protect pollinators (Editorial)

A recent press release from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Service  reminds everyone who uses pesticides, including professional applicators as well as individual homeowners, that we all can do our part in protecting the health of honey bees and other pollinators by reading the label on all pesticides products and following the instructions for their use. Virginia, as well as much of the rest of the United States, is experiencing dramatic losses in honey bees. Scientists believe that those losses are likely caused by a combination of multiple stressors, including poor bee nutrition, loss of forage lands, parasites, pathogens and exposure to pesticides.  
The instructions and related precautions that appear on the pesticide label are intended to protect the user, other people, animals and the surrounding environment by minimizing the potential risk of exposure to the pesticide. The likelihood of an incident is minimized when users follow the directions on the label. The pesticide label is the law. Failure to follow the directions could constitute violations of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act, as well as the Virginia Pesticide Control Act, both of which provide for civil or criminal penalties for violations.
What are the risks of not reading and following the label? In addition to the potential for human injury, disease or death, environmental contamination and pollution, economic loss and property damage, there is also the potential for the imposition of restrictions on the use of specific pesticides. For example, in 2013, an estimated 50,000 bumblebees were killed in Wilsonville, Ore., after a commercial pesticide applicator treated blooming linden trees with an insecticide in an effort to control aphids. That incident prompted Oregon officials to prohibit the use of certain insecticides. Two more recent incidents of large bee deaths also in Oregon prompted officials in that state to prohibit the application of certain products to linden, basswood and other trees of Tilia species.
Some have called for a ban on neonicotinoids,  which have been blamed for bee deaths. Jennifer Sass of the Natural Resources Defense Council wrote, “EPA should cancel all uses of neonics where they can lead to harm for bees and other beneficial insects, and chemical manufacturers (who) make neonics should use their resources to develop less harmful alternatives instead of defending the neonics.”
Speaking to members of the Maryland Nursery and Landscape Association recently, Craig Regelbrugge  of AmericanHort warned that neonicotinoids are needed as a tool by professionals. “If neonics go away as a class of chemicals, we’ve got a problem.”
While the MNLA has not taken an official stance on the use of neonicotinoids, it has created a webpage under Industry Resources on the MNLA website,, titled “Pollinator Issues and Awareness.” The page is intended to serve as a form of awareness for members to use and disseminate to their customers as they wish.
For more information regarding pollinator protection, visit the EPA’s website at