Skip to Content
Return to Home Page

Integrated Pest Management · Agriculture and Natural Resources

University of California

Best management practices to protect bees from pesticides

Adult honey bee.

Follow these precautions to help protect bees from pesticides:

  • Identify what species of bees are present at the site and learn the specific ways to protect them. Alkali bees, bumble bees, honey bees, leafcutter bees, and other bees vary in their biology, susceptibility to pesticides, and effectiveness in pollinating a particular crop. Methods for protecting bees and promoting pollination can differ depending on the crop and bee species.
  • Read labels carefully before deciding which pesticide to apply and follow the product directions. Also know and comply with any applicable state and local regulations.
  • During prebloom, do not use a pesticide with a long residual (extended residual toxicity or systemic pesticides). Avoid pesticides with cautions on the label that read "highly toxic to bees," "toxic to bees," "residual times," or "extended residual toxicity." Residual toxicity to bees varies greatly between pesticide products, and can range from hours to a week or more.
  • Avoid applying any pesticides to plants that are flowering, particularly insecticides. Also avoid pesticide drift to blooming plants.
  • Avoid spraying tank mixes, such as insecticides combined with fungicides, to plants that are flowering.
  • If a fungicide or herbicide application is warranted during bloom, and allowed by the label and regulations, make the application between sunset and midnight when bees are not active. Be aware that unlike honey bees that return to a hive, some bees spend the night on plants or in soil at the site.
  • Do not directly spray bees, beehives, or bee nesting sites with any pesticide. Ensure that the applicator turns off nozzles when near beehives or nesting sites or that hives or bee boxes are removed from the area before application.
  • Either remove or cover water sources before spraying pesticide, or supply new, clean water after an application is made.
  • Remember to keep all parties informed of agricultural sprays, so that beekeepers are always aware of impending applications, and applicators are fully informed of the parameters required regarding location, materials, timing, and method of application.
  • Contact the county agricultural commissioner to learn how to protect bees and the requirements before applying pesticides.
  • Use integrated pest management (IPM) to maintain healthy crops and minimize pesticide use.
  • Consult the UC IPM Pest Management Guidelines to learn how to protect bees when using specific pesticides. Each crop has a table of Relative Toxicities of Insecticides and Miticides to Natural Enemies and Honey Bees in the General Information section.

Adapted from Honey Bee Best Management Practices for California Almond Growers, California Almond Board.

PDF: To display a PDF document, you may need to use a PDF reader.