Pollinators and Pesticides - Webinar Recap

by Lynne Robins, Pollinantor Pathway NW volunteer

On March 29, 2023, the Pollinator Pathway NW and NRDC hosted a webinar on the science behind threats posed by neonics and other pesticides to pollinators, biodiversity, and our own health. Dan Raichel, Acting Director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Pollinator initiative, documented the prevalence of neonics in our environment, and their devastating effects: contaminating soil, water, and plant life, driving massive losses to birds and bees, and raising alarm bells for wildlife, clean water and human health. Katie Buckley, the Pollinator Health Coordinator for Washington’s State Department of Agriculture presented information on Washington state’s efforts to support pollinator health and habitat and recommended immediate steps we can all take to save our pollinators.
I contacted Katie and asked her to summarize some webinar take-home points. She graciously offered the following:
Washington state has passed two bills aimed at protecting pollinators. These led to the creation of a pollinator health task force, which wrote and began implementing state-wide recommendations related to pollinator health:
  1. Habitat: Protect existing habitat, create new habitat, and educate people on how to do so.
  2. Pesticides: Strengthen education programs on pesticide safety and pollinator health, increase penalties for violations, and review recent investigations.
  3. Outreach and education: Create programs to educate people about pollinators and pollinator habitat and create a WSU extension position to help with implementation.
  4. Managed pollinators: Survey registered beekeepers on existing programs to see if expansion is warranted, and increase communication between beekeepers, pesticide applicators, and growers.
  5. Research: Outline areas of pollinator health where recommendations could not be made due to lack of knowledge.
What can homeowners do right now to help pollinators?
  1. Plant more native plants. Shrubs and trees count!
  2. Use no or only “soft” pesticides, and never on anything in bloom.
  3. Be lazier. Leave leaf litter in flower beds so pollinators can overwinter. Don’t prune plant stems down to the ground, especially if the stems are hollow. Some bees nest in hollow stems. Leave some patches of bare ground when you are mulching. Most bees nest in the ground. 
  4. Tolerate some insect feeding damage to your plants. Most plants are tolerant of herbivory.