Insecticide Seed Treatments and Pollinator Protection

Figure 1. Insecticide seed treatment is an important tool to manage some soil pests (Photo: Ric Bessin, UK).

Figure 1. Insecticide seed treatment is an important tool to manage some soil pests (Photo: Ric Bessin, UK).

Insecticide seed treatments are widespread as they are a relatively inexpensive method to manage some belowground and aboveground insect pests in row crops and some vegetables. Many insecticide seed treatments contain a neonicotinoid insecticide that can move systemically through plants. While producers rely on these treatments as tools to manage destructive pests, they also need to follow some basic steps to protect pollinators. The following steps were modified from those provided by the National Pesticide Safety Education Center (NPSEC).

For Producers

  1. Use insecticide seed treatments when appropriate as part of an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Program.

  2. Follow directions on treated-seed container labeling for handling, storage, planting, and disposal of treated seed.

  3. Use advanced seed flow lubricants that minimize dust.

  4. Eliminate flowering plants and weeds in and around fields prior to planting.

  5. At planting, be aware of honey bees and hives near fields, and communicate with beekeepers when possible.

  6. Completely remove all treated seed left in containers and equipment used for planting, and dispose of it properly. Keep all treated seed out of the commodity grain channels and do not use as animal feed.

For Seed Treatment Applicators

  1. Comply with all regulations for registered pesticide products, and ensure proper employee training.

  2. Establish written application protocols using best practices to ensure high-quality seed treatment application and minimize dust-off.

  3. Adopt stewardship documentation for full life cycle of seed treatment products.

  4. Properly discard treatment, treated seed, and rinse water to minimize environmental impact.

  5. Ensure that all required and pertinent seed treatment information is conveyed to customers through product labels and education.

To learn more about best-management practices to protect both crops and pollinators while handling, planting, and disposing of seeds treated with neonicotinoids, visit Growing Matters, as well as  National Pesticide Safety Education Center and American Seed Trade Association.  More information on the BeSure! Campaign can be found here.

The information for this article was adapted from the Growing Matters #BeSure! Campaign. 

Ric Bessin, Extension Entomologist