Read, follow the pesticide label: It’s serious business, and it’s the law

virginia-blue-oversizeVirginia, as well as much of the rest of the United States, is experiencing dramatic losses in honey bees. Scientists believe that those losses are likely caused by a combination of multiple stressors, including poor bee nutrition, loss of forage lands, parasites, pathogens and exposure to pesticides.

The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Service reminds everyone who uses pesticides, including professional applicators as well as individual homeowners, that we all can do our part in protecting the health of honey bees and other pollinators by reading the label on all pesticides products and following the instructions for their use.

The instructions and related precautions that appear on the pesticide label are intended to protect the user, other people, animals and the surrounding environment by minimizing the potential risk of exposure to the pesticide. The likelihood of an incident is minimized when users follow the directions on the label. The pesticide label is the law. Failure to follow the directions could constitute violations of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act, which is the federal pesticide law, as well as the Virginia Pesticide Control Act.  Both the federal and Virginia pesticide laws provide for civil or criminal penalties for violations.

What are the risks of not reading and following the label? In addition to the potential for human injury, disease or death, environmental contamination and pollution, economic loss and property damage, there is also the potential for the imposition of restrictions on the use of specific pesticides. For example, in 2013, an estimated 50,000 bumblebees were killed in Wilsonville, Oregon after a commercial pesticide applicator treated blooming linden trees with an insecticide in an effort to control aphids. That incident prompted Oregon officials to prohibit the use of certain insecticides.

Two more recent incidents of large bee deaths also in Oregon prompted officials in that state to prohibit the application of certain products to linden, basswood and other trees of Tilia species. By using pesticides according to the label, pest control professionals and homeowners can reduce the potential for a similar incident occurring in Virginia.

To learn more about the proper use of pesticides, visit the Virginia Pesticide Safety website atwww.vapesticidesafety.com. This site is maintained by VDACS’ Office of Pesticide Services (OPS). In addition to information regarding the proper use of pesticides, the website also contains information about common and seasonal home, lawn and garden pests, as well as options for managing those pests. For additional information regarding pollinator protection, visit the Environmental Protection Agency’s website at http://www2.epa.gov/pollinator-protection.

OPS also manages a program to dispose of unwanted, outdated or banned pesticides. This year it will take place in Central Virginia and the Tidewater area, including the Eastern Shore. Since its inception, Virginia’s Pesticide Disposal Program has collected and destroyed more than 1.2 million pounds of outdated and unwanted pesticides, completely eliminating the environmental threat they could have posed. OPS provides this service at no cost to participants. For more information see, http://www.vdacs.virginia.gov/news/releases-a/070214pestdisposal.shtml or contact Jeff Rogers at VDACS: jeffrey.rogers@vdacs.virginia.gov or 804.371.6561.

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