The evidence is pretty clear: many of the most commonly used pesticides–both synthetic AND organic–can harm beneficial and pollinator species of insects. It’s a problem many homeowners grapple with when deciding to treat their homes and yards, and a challenge that our pest management professionals and entomologists are always discussing in meetings and protocol and pest plan reviews and design. We all owe it to future generations though to face the issue, though, and create pollinator safe pest control plans that reduce harm to the insect species that play an important role in our environmental systems.
Non-spray approaches & prevention
The easiest way to avoid harming beneficial insects is obviously to avoid spraying any product that could harm them. Part of our pest management philosophy is to use inspection and prevention as our first line of defense, and we’d encourage homeowners to do the same. Start in the house, and identify areas that are vulnerable to pests breaking in. These could be cracks or unsealed areas in the foundation, around pipes, near windows, etc. The easiest way to prevent unwanted pest from getting in is to seal up these weak spots
In areas that are hard to seal, but seem to attract pests, try traps and low-impact products. For instance, if ants find their way in from under the sink, consider a product like diatomaceous earth. We use this “dust” in some of our treatment programs, and it is an OMRI listed (organic) product that will irritate insects and force them to “groom” themselves instead of foraging through your kitchen. This product is often used by gardeners, and is a very safe, stable product.
When guarding against pests such as termites, take a step outside and review the perimeter around the home. Keep the foundation clear of untreated wood, if you use mulch try and keep it from piling up against the side of the home, have a routine to do a walk-around to monitor to make sure there are no mud tunnels being built from ground to the home, and consider an inground monitoring and/or baiting program.
As you move out further into the yard, identify areas that would harbor unwanted pests, for instance wasps, ticks, and mosquitos. Often, the best defense is a well maintained landscape. Keep grass cut short, eliminate areas of standing water, and clear out (or seal up) areas that would make an inviting home for pests.
Use product carefully
If a spray treatment is determined to be a useful aid in your pest control program, make sure it is done in a pollinator safe way. Before using a product on your own, first determine it is NOT a restricted use pesticide. There has been an increase in pesticide products meant for certified applicators getting sold on the internet to homeowners. These products can be dangerous to you and the environment, so please double check what you are using.
Product should only be applied to areas of the home deemed necessary, and when moving onto the outside, consider the following:
- Spray in the very early morning or at dusk. Beneficial insects are active during the day, so avoid spraying while they are doing their jobs pollinating.
- Avoid spraying near flowering plants or in the garden.
- Do not spray close to open water (ponds, lakes, rivers, etc).
- Note wind conditions. If it’s windy, it’s not a good day to spray.
- Use only as much product as needed. Check product label and instructions to figure out what is the minimum level.
And, when in doubt, consult a professional when considering a spray application. When looking for a pollinator safe pest control company, ask them about their pollinator safety plan and how pollinator safe pest control is apart of theiif part of their training involves any pollinator awareness training. Remember, even many of the popular organic sprays can harm and kill pollinators, so if they tell you their products are organic as an answer to their pollinator safety plan, that isn’t enough.
Pollinator Positive Steps you can Take
If you want to do more than just prevent harm to pollinator species, consider creating areas in your yard for pollinators. Pollinator gardens are a great project for your yard and are both great for the environment and can be a beautiful part of your home and yard. Check out the USDA’s website on Gardening for Pollinators for some ideas on how to add a pollinator garden to your home.