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Integrated Pest Management · Agriculture and Natural Resources

University of California

Protecting natural enemies and pollinators

honey bee

Natural enemies (predators, parasites, and pathogens) reduce pest populations and help prevent damage to plants. Pollinators such as domesticated honey bees, wild bees, and other pollinating insects are essential for many California crops.

Natural enemies and pollinators can be harmed by pesticides and their populations are often more affected by pesticides than the targeted pests. For instance, many plant pests are stationary, while natural enemies and pollinators move about, and may encounter pesticide residues in more places.

To maintain healthy populations of natural enemies and pollinators, use integrated pest management (IPM). As part of an IPM program, follow these guidelines:

Use pesticides sparingly and spot-treat
  • Before applying any pesticide, read and follow all the product label directions.
  • Target the application to the specific area where the pest is a problem to reduce the harm to natural enemies and pollinators.
Choose selective and nonpersistent pesticides
  • Identify the pest, and use the resources on this website to determine which pesticides will specifically control that pest.
  • Avoid broad-spectrum, persistent insecticides. Carbamates, organophosphates, and pyrethroids kill many different invertebrates and leave residues that kill pollinators, parasites, and predators that migrate in after the application.
  • Neonicotinoids and other systemic insecticides translocate (move) within plants and can poison bees and natural enemies that feed on nectar, pollen, and liquids that plants ooze (guttation).
  • Avoid spraying tank mixes, such as insecticides combined with fungicides.
  • Be aware that broad-spectrum (nonselective) herbicides and herbicides applied for broadleaf weeds, reduce the abundance of floral plants that attract and feed pollinators and natural enemies.

Agricultural crops

Other resources

Homes and landscapes

For homes and landscapes, assess the hazards of particular pesticides using the Home & Landscape pesticide active ingredients database.

More information

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