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Solving a potential pollinator puzzle: an organized approach

By Dr. Austin M. Frishman

Pollinators can be a tricky situation to navigate, especially if customers voice concerns about pollinator health or allege that there was a potential misapplication after you have serviced their property. As with any forensic investigation, it is necessary to gather all pertinent information before making any conclusions. Therefore, you must know what questions to ask to properly determine what happened.

Think of each question and answer as a piece to a puzzle. All the pieces should fit together to help you solve the problem. Sometimes there may not be a definite answer. As you go through these questions, think of the answers you would give and how prepared you are to help minimize pollinator health issues from occurring in the first place.

Here are some questions to consider:

  • What time did you begin and end the pesticide application? How does this relate to when the pollinators started to visit the flowers?
  • Tip: weather reports are available with precise details.
  • What was the temperature at the time of application? Are pollinators less likely to fly at that temperature?
  • What were the wind conditions like? In which direction was the wind blowing?
  • From the pollinator colony/hive, which direction do the pollinators travel to seek pollen? Is it toward or away from where the application was made?
  • Have you had any problems of this nature in the past? If so, when, what and why?
  • What is the health history of the pollinator colony/hive that may be affected? Do they have pests? Do they have enough water?
  • Do you have documented paperwork, and possibly videos, showing your technician was properly trained?
  • Do you have a written label and examination they take on the label and the SDS sheet?
  • Is your technician certified in the appropriate category to apply this material?
  • Were label directions followed?
  • This includes PPE equipment, target pest and/or on site on the label
  • Are you in a state where this product has a restricted state wording more stringent than the federal label?
  • Does your state have registered chemically sensitive people? If so, were they notified ahead of time?
  • Have the people in your company taken any pollinator protection training programs? If so, what? If not, why not?
  • How many similar jobs has your organization and technicians done in the past?
  • Are you carrying the correct insurance to cover such claims?
  • Is there anything to note with respect to the action of any third parties in the general area on the day of your application or a few days prior to or after that date?
  • Are your pesticide records for this application accurate regarding volume and diluted concentration?
  • Did the applicator do an inspection prior to applying the product?
  • Do you have a record of all registered pollinator colonies and their locations? Do you check these records before applying a pesticide which can adversely affect pollinators?
  • If applying at a school or sensitive account, did you present the school or facility administrator with a list of integrated pest management (IPM) practices to implement other than a pesticide application?

​​​​​​​Pollinators consist of not only honey bees, but native bees, as well as many butterfly, moth and beetle species. It is important to be familiar with them all. If you believe you may be responsible for a misapplication that could negatively impact pollinators, do not run away from the problem. Prove your loyalty and commitment to your customers and learn from the situation so it does not happen again. How you handle a tough situation determines the reputation of your company. How well your company can answer the questions listed above will hopefully help minimize such incidents in the future.

For further information about reporting a pollinator misapplication, view this Quick Guide to Reporting a Pesticide-Related Bee Kill Incident.

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