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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Growers follow the label: An analysis of bee-toxic pesticide use in almond orchards during bloom


California almond orchards are most U.S. beekeepers' first stop on their pollination and honey production circuit, so the agrochemicals bees are exposed to in almonds can shape the vitality of their colony for the rest of the year. We explored the potential for honey bee exposure to bee-toxic agrochemicals during almond bloom by utilizing the California Department of Pesticide Regulations' Pesticide Use Report database from 1990 to 2016. We found that overall, growers are observing the pesticide labels and reducing their use of labeled bee-toxic pesticides during almond bloom. However, we also found that insect growth regulators, fungicides and organosilicone surfactants — agrochemicals often not labeled as toxic to bees — are commonly applied during almond bloom. These agrochemicals can be sublethally or synergistically toxic to adult honey bees and bee larvae, presenting potential harm to colonies during almond pollination. Our findings demonstrate the need for a shift in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's labeling requirements, as well as continued communication between almond growers, pesticide applicators and beekeepers to keep colonies at a low risk of bee-toxic agrochemical exposure.

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