Pollinators -- Helping us and the Environment
You may think of honey and bees when you hear the word pollination. During pollination, pollen is moved from one flower to the next. This fertilizes the plants and promotes reproduction. But not just bees pollinate -- butterflies, certain birds, insects and bats are also pollinators. Their help enables plants to make seeds and fruits. So, the next time you see a hummingbird or butterfly, know they are playing a key role in flower and plant production. Ultimately, their pollination is necessary for our food chain and that of wildlife throughout nature. Pollinators help us and numerous other animals. They provide food -- such as honey, apples, blueberries, and nuts -- which also impacts our economy. You can help take action to protect pollinators -- from your pesticide choices, to planting a pollinator garden, to offering nesting sites. Your actions can help pollinators flourish. And when pollinators thrive -- we all do.
Looking for easy ways you can turn your backyard or windowsill into a pollinator paradise? Check out our "Green Your Backyard" video on DEC's YouTube channel for tips.
Pollinators and New York State
As a result of the work and recommendations of the Pollinator Task Force, there are four priority areas that New York State focuses on to conserve and grow its pollinator population:
- Best Management Practices for all pollinator stakeholders;
- Habitat enhancement efforts to protect and revive populations of all pollinators;
- Research and monitoring efforts to better understand, prevent and recover from pollinator losses; and
- Development of an outreach and education program to raise awareness of the importance of pollinators and engage the public as active participants in reversing pollinator decline.
Further information about these priority areas follows below. You can also read more about them and other important information pertinent to pollinator protection in the New York State Pollinator Protection Plan (PDF) and the 2020 Pollinator Protection Plan Update.
Check out results from the Empire State Native Pollinator Survey. The goal of the survey is to determine the conservation status of our native insect pollinators.
Pollinators and Pesticide Use
Professional pesticide applicators and homeowners alike should always consider all their options when deciding on the best approach to managing a pest, as a pesticide may not be needed, or a less toxic pesticide may be adequate. In situations where it is determined a pesticide is necessary, then care must always be taken when applying it to areas where pollinators visit or forage or are expected to do so. Consult the label directions of the pesticide you are using about pollinator safety and protection and always follow label directions. Information about various New York State requirements for: pesticide products, pesticide applicator certification, and registration of pesticide businesses, among many things, can be found on the Pesticides homepage.
What is a Neonicotinoid?
Recently the term "neonicotinoid" has been in the news in relation to pollinators.
Neonicotinoids are a class of insecticides which are chemically related to nicotine. "Neo" means new, and "nicotinoid" means nicotine-like. Farmers discovered, over 300 years ago, the insecticidal properties of nicotine. They would soak tobacco leaves in water and use it to kill insects on crops.
Today, this class of insecticide is especially effective against sucking and chewing insects such as aphids, whiteflies, beetles, grubs, ants, cockroaches, bed bugs and fleas, just to name a few.
The insecticides in this class are:
These active ingredients are used in a range of products such as pet products, indoor insect control, agricultural, greenhouse, nursery, ornamental, turf, and tree injection for invasive species control.
In New York State, many of these active ingredients are registered with various use restrictions which limit outdoor exposure. For example, clothianidin is registered for indoor use only, and thiamethoxam is labeled for use by professional applicators for agricultural and greenhouse use. If you choose to hire a professional, make sure they are licensed and certified in New York State. Additional information about New York State pesticide use requirements can be found on the Pesticides homepage.
DEC has reclassified many outdoor neonicotinoid pesticides from general use to restricted use
Effective January 1, 2023, pesticide products containing imidacloprid, acetamiprid, or thiamethoxam that are labeled for foliar or widespread outdoor use or seed treatment were reclassified as restricted use. A complete list of the pesticide products subject to this action can be found here.
Impact to general public:
The general public can no longer legally purchase, possess or use these products. This reclassification will mean that only certified pesticide applicators may purchase, possess and use them. More information about this can be found on the Pesticides homepage. After January 1, 2023, purchase, possession, distribution, or application of these pesticide products without a pesticide applicator certification or a purchase permit will be illegal. If you have one of the listed pesticide products after January 1, 2023, you must legally dispose of the product in an environmentally sound manner. Information about disposal can be found on the pesticide label. Some communities may offer household hazardous waste collection events or facilities for residents to drop off these materials for disposal.
Impact to retailers:
If you are a retailer and sell these pesticide products, as of January 1, 2023, you will need a commercial permit from DEC to sell these restricted use pesticides and you may only sell them to certified applicators or purchase permit holders. Sale of restricted use pesticides without a commercial permit is illegal. Retailers should remove these products from sale and legally dispose of them in an environmentally sound manner. Information about disposal can be found on the pesticide label. The material may be collected disposed at a CleanSweepNY pesticide collection event in some locations. More information about the CleanSweepNY program can be found here.
If you are interested in more information on neonicotinoids, see Cornell University's 2020 publication, Neonicotinoid Insecticides in New York State: economic benefits and risk to pollinators. This document summarizes their extensive research on the economic benefits that neonicotinoids provide to users and the risks they pose to insect pollinators.
All pesticide product labels contain an ingredient statement which identifies the active ingredient(s) and their percentage(s). You can access labels registered for use in New York by searching NYSPAD
Reporting a Pollinator Incident
A pollinator "incident" is a situation where a number of bees or other pollinators have died or appear to be dying or otherwise exhibit unusual behavior to the observer. A pollinator incident could involve honey bees (or other "managed" bees) or any wild pollinator which includes many insects and animals: various other bees, butterflies, moths, certain flies, and some animals such as hummingbirds and bats.
If you are a beekeeper having experienced an unexplained or abnormal die off of your bee colony, or are a passer-by observing what you believe to be a pollinator incident, we encourage you to contact us. Here's how:
- Call your regional DEC office - use the DEC Regional Office Directory. Once there, choose your regional office and use the phone number shown under "pesticides."
- Alternately, you can call DEC's Pesticide Program Headquarters in Albany, NY: 518-402-8727. If, in your best judgment, the matter appears to be an emergency, or, if you are calling after business hours, please use the DEC Hotline number: 1-844-332-3267.
- You may also reach us by email.
- To assist with any follow-up associated with a complaint, please provide details of the event, including: the date and time, location, your contact telephone number, and any other pertinent information.
Additionally, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) wishes to be notified of incidents involving pollinator/bee kills. If an incident is reported to the DEC we will notify EPA. If you wish to contact EPA directly, you can do so by sending an email to the EPA or alternately, through the Ecological Pesticide Incident Reporting portal. Information EPA obtains about pollinator incidents when pesticides are involved helps EPA with their regulatory decision making.
If you are a beekeeper, you may also wish to contact the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets.
What DEC does in response to your notification:
- We will speak with you, ask you for details of the incident, assess the situation, and determine if a site visit is warranted.
- We may take samples. But we cannot accept samples taken by others.
- We may share pollinator incident details with other government agencies such as the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, in addition to EPA.
Best Management Practices
Best Management Practices (BMPs) are methods and techniques used to achieve a desired outcome in an efficient and cost-effective manner. Relative to pollinators, BMPs are voluntary actions protecting native and managed pollinators in a way that ensures both a healthy pollinator population and thriving agriculture and plant materials industries particularly in the State of New York.
Several different BMPs are outlined in the New York State Pollinator Protection Plan, including those for beekeepers, contract beekeepers, landowners/growers, pesticide users, and state agencies. See appendices A - F in the plan (pages 31 - 42). Additional pollinator BMPs can be found at these websites:
Best Management Practices for Turf Care and Pollinator Conservation (Note: this link takes you to the Cornell Turfgrass Program webpage. The BMP's title, along with others, appears in the list of documents there.)
We encourage you to find out more about pollinators, their protection, and enhancement of their habitat. Here are websites with excellent information about them.
- Pollinator Network at Cornell - Has substantial content about pollinators, including both managed and wild bees/pollinators and the five research programs at Cornell investigating pollinators. Links are provided to the group's various research papers/documents, including their recent research on the possible links between use of fungicides and negative effects on bee health and their 2020 publication, Neonicotinoid Insecticides in New York State: economic benefits and risk to pollinators, which summarizes their extensive research on the benefits and risks of neonicotinoids and their alternatives in New York. Also on this website are important pollinator protection tools for orchards and turf and ornamentals developed by the Pollinator Network: A Pesticide Decision-Making Guide to Protect Pollinators in Tree Fruit Orchards and A Pesticide Decision-Making Guide to Protect Pollinators in Landscape, Ornamental, and Turf Management.
- New York State Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Program at Cornell Pollinators webpage
- EPA website on pollinator protection
- New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets
- Cornell University Cooperative Extension occasionally offers presentations, courses, & educational events pertaining to pollinators. Check with your local office(s).
- CCE Putnam County 360° Pollinator Garden Tour
- New York State Certified Pesticide Applicators and Technicians interested in recertification courses with content on pollinators should check NYSPAD using the search term "pollinator" or "bees."
- The Pollinator Pathway Project (PDF) - a brochure of pollinator friendly plants
- April 2017 Conservationist for Kids (PDF) - dedicated to pollinators
- US Department of Agriculture
- US Fish & Wildlife Service
- Beescape - a web-based tool, created by a multi-university team, for beekeepers, growers, and others to help evaluate the quality of their landscapes to support managed and wild pollinators.
- 2018 Pollinator Protection Plan Update (PDF) - contains updates to pollinator protection activities by New York State agencies from mid 2016 - mid 2018.
Using simple search terms such as "pollinator," "pollinator protection," "wild pollinators", "colony collapse disorder," will turn up many websites which you can explore further. Educational institutions; government agencies; and associations for growers, landscapers, plant producers and similar are often good and reliable sources of information.