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Minimizing Risks to Pollinators and Beneficial Insects

This edition was written by Emily May, Aimee Code, Mace Vaughan, and Sara Morris (2018), with minor updates made in May 2021. It is based on previous editions written by Eric Lee-Mäder (2008) and Nancy Lee Adamson (2012). All authors are with the Xerces Society.

Organic agriculture generally supports higher biodiversity than conventional management, and organic farms can play an important role in protecting and supporting bees and other beneficial insects in agricultural landscapes. Many organic operations already have good numbers of wild bees, as well as predators and parasitoids that attack crop pests. These beneficial species may provide most or all necessary crop pollination and pest control services when adequate habitat is available and preventive non-chemical pest management practices are implemented.

Unfortunately, however, even pesticides allowed for use in organic agriculture can cause harm to bees and other beneficial insects. There are many considerations when choosing between different pesticide options, including efficacy, specificity, cost, and risks to human health and the environment. This guide provides a brief overview of how to select and apply pesticides for organic farm operations while minimizing pollinator mortality. Many of the practices outlined here for protecting pollinators also can help to protect beneficial insects such as parasitoid wasps and flies; predaceous wasps, flies, and beetles; ambush and assassin bugs; lacewings; and others. The presence of these insects can further reduce pest pressure and the need for chemical treatments.

Related document: Common Organic-Allowed Pesticides: A Comparative Overview.


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