NMBKA Pollinator Protection Plan
New Mexico, USA, also known as The Land of Enchantment is home for many known species of pollinators due to numerous specialized habitats and ecosystems. The size of the region, and close proximity to the subtropics of neighboring country Mexico also support New Mexico’s native bee species richness and diversity (4th largest of all the states). New Mexico is home to the convergence of several ecoregions including the Southern Rocky Mountains, Arizona-New Mexico Mountains, Central and Southern Short-Grass Prairies, Apache Highlands, Chihuahuan Desert, and the Colorado Plateau.
New Mexico’s high elevation and semi-arid landscapes make it a challenging region for human, animal, and plant life. Yet, despite the challenges, it is known for its tricultural tapestry and extreme landscapes. The revered chile plant is grown across the state in addition to onions, cotton, pecans, pistachios, stone fruits, alfalfa, and wild-harvests of piñon nuts (pine nuts). These cultivations are all fed by the Rio Grande and Pecos rivers or their tributaries. New Mexico is home to over 23 sovereign Indigenous nations including the Tiwa, Tewa, Tigua, Diné, Apache, and Kerés speaking communities. These Indigenous communities are the original stewards of these lands and they have adapted to the diverse landscapes of this region where they continue to thrive.
New Mexico also boasts approximately 2,000 diverse pollinator species, including three hundred species of butterflies and around 1,400 species of bees. Increasing habitat loss, pesticide use, diseases, invasive species, and climate change are all impacting New Mexico pollinators. The severity of drought conditions due to rapidly increasing temperatures as a result of climate change is of particular concern. Farmers, gardeners, land stewards, and beekeepers alike are concerned about the plight of pollinators and should be working collaboratively to help increase habitat and support regenerative pollinator conservation.
New Mexico growers rely on both managed and feral populations of pollinators, honey bees being the most common. Over the past decade, many of the United States’ research studies show that many pollinating insect populations are in decline. Industrial agricultural practices, loss of habitat, a shifting climate, and bee-specific pathogens and pests add to a decline in pollinator populations (vanEngelsdorp and Meixner 2010, Fairbrother et al. 2014).
The NMBKA Pollinator Protection Plan
This Pollinator Protection Plan does not restrict the use of pesticides. Instead, this plan is intended to complement the existing label and rule requirements to protect bees from pesticides when pesticides are used in agricultural and non-agricultural settings.
This Pollinator Protection Plan contains voluntary Best Management Practices (BMP) for pesticide users, landowners/growers, and beekeepers in hopes of creating the following positive outcomes:
- Ensuring positive relationships and peaceful co-existence among beekeepers, landowners and pesticide applicators.
- Reducing pollinator exposure to pesticides.
- Ensuring a robust apiary industry, native pollinator population, and agriculture economy.
- Continued high compliance with pesticide label requirements and state rules to protect pollinators.
It is understood that localized issues may need more specific BMPs or efforts. These general guidelines are meant to be a starting point for protection of managed bee populations. Additional research and efforts may be needed for wild pollinators or beekeepers in a specific area facing a unique threat.
The first part of this document includes information that supports our statements and positions; the second half includes best practices or recommendations for beekeepers, land owners and pesticide applicators.
Risks to pollinators associated with pesticides is primarily an operational issue and can be managed by communication and education. Using pesticides wisely can help protect pollinators and reduce problems with pest tolerance.
One class of pesticides, neonicotinoids, however, are particularly concerning. Neonicotinoids are a group of insecticides used widely on farms and in urban landscapes. They are absorbed by plants and can be present in pollen and nectar, making them toxic to bees. In 2016, there was uncertainty about the impact these insecticides were having on bees. Research published since then clearly shows how neonicotinoids are killing bees and changing their behaviors in ways that harm honey bee colonies. They are also finding that neonicotinoids persist in plants and in soil much longer than we first expected.
In May 2013, the European Commission (the EU’s executive branch) banned the use of three neonicotinoids—imidacloprid, thiamethoxam and clothianidin—on flowering crops attractive to pollinators and on crops growing grains for cereals. In May of 2018, it went further and banned all outdoor uses of the trio, and in February 2020, it decided not to renew the approval of a fourth neonicotinoid called thiacloprid, resulting in its de facto ban.
The Land of Enchantment, New Mexico, relies on the health of its land, water, wildlife and agriculture. In order to thrive, access to secure food systems, clean water, and healthy soils is imperative. We recommend legislation that would restrict the use of neonicotinoids in New Mexico by:
- banning the sale and use of neonicotinoids in outdoor urban settings
- requiring stricter licensure, and better enforcement of proper use of neonicotinoids in commercial agriculture,
- instituting labeling requirements and educational materials that will help guide consumers
We also recommend a common-sense approach that would control the use of neonicotinoids in New Mexico:
- Halt use of neonicotinoid products by backyard gardeners and other unlicensed applicators.
- Require labeling of plants and plant materials that have been treated with neonicotinoids.
- Prohibit applications of all neonicotinoid products on bee-attractive crop plants during bloom.
- Continued research on the effects of neonicotinoids on both managed bees and wild bee populations.
Challenges Faced by Beekeepers and Pesticide Users
Beekeepers - Nutrition and Pests
Nutrition has an impact on individual bee health and colony longevity. Bees generally become active in the spring with warm weather and the flowering of plants. Ensuring nutritious forage during the active season is essential to their survival.
Honey bees rely on a wide variety of plants blooming throughout a season to provide pollen for their protein source and utilize nectar for carbohydrates. Honey bees are generalists; they visit many different blooming plants in order to obtain all of the essential amino acids and nutrients required to build and maintain a strong hive. Bees can become easy targets for pests, predators and pathogens when they do not obtain the proper balance of nutrients. Bees provided with quality forage are better able to handle external stressors like pesticides and parasites.
To maintain vibrant honey bee colonies during fall and winter months, bees must have proper food sources, including sugar and protein, in order to overwinter in a healthy state. Providing less nutritious overwintering foods, such as high- fructose corn syrup, may result in bees overwintering in a weakened state, making them more susceptible to the parasitic Varroa mite and viral diseases. Varroa mites are a widespread bee pest and are primarily responsible for the decline of honey bee populations in the United States. Miticides are generally needed to control the pest; however, miticides should be used carefully and according to label instructions so as not to create problems with resistance. Improper use of miticides by beekeepers can also harm the bees and hive products like honey, in addition to creating problems with resistance. The products are only effective at killing varroa when used according to their label directions. Mite control should be part of an overall hive hygiene program that also addresses pest and disease management and includes provisions for proper hive ventilation.
Researchers and queen producers should work together to make breeding/selection programs more robust with the goal of improving traits such as pest resistance, productivity, etc. They can then provide higher quality queens to both commercial pollinator operations and even backyard beekeepers. The Department of Entomology at Washington State University’s College of Agriculture and Human and Natural Resource Sciences is a national leader in the science of beekeeping. In addition to providing ongoing research on beekeeping and bee health, scientists from the Department of Entomology provide training workshops on topics related to beekeeping, including how to rear high quality queens. New Mexico State University (NMSU) Department of Agriculture is a vital resource for the managed pollinator industry in the state of New Mexico. The New Mexico Beekeepers Association also offers a state certification program that teaches students best beekeeping practices, including how to test and treat for mites, and how to raise quality queens.
Additional factors that beekeepers face in keeping colonies healthy include: varroa destructor mites, tracheal mites, small hive beetles, bacterial, fungal and viral diseases, declining quality forage and pesticide exposure. Nationally, year-to-year colony survival is variable.
Growers and pesticide applicators can help with reducing the exposure to pesticides and improve the quality of forage available through communication with beekeepers, and by discussing proper hive placement. Varroa mites are considered to be the greatest “in-hive” threat to honey bee colonies, and the reduction of the ancillary bee stress related to pesticide exposure will improve survivability.
Knowing where managed honey bee colonies are located is an important factor in the ability to avoid colony exposure to pesticides and to employ special practices to protect them. For example, limiting pesticide applications to low activity periods (e.g., spraying in evening hours) in areas where managed colonies are known to be present could help reduce the incidence of pesticide exposure to honey bees. Notifying beekeepers when spraying is going to happen, and allowing them time to move or net hives can also be helpful.
is a voluntary communication tool that enables beekeepers and pesticide applicators in New Mexico to work together to protect apiaries through use of the BeeCheck mapping program. It is not a substitute for any state regulatory requirements. is a no cost apiary registry service provided by
Pesticide User Challenges
Growers and Applicators encounter a number of challenges in their daily operations. Growers have to manage insect pests, diseases, weeds and other factors impacting crop production and quality. Growers have a variety of pest management tools and strategies to choose from. They often need to affordably eliminate pests and competing plants without impacting yields.
Pesticide applicators often have a limited time frame to make an application. Factors such as pest infestation levels, temperature, precipitation, wind, water levels, buffers, and the presence of pollinators all affect pesticide choices and decisions on when, where and how to make an application. Applicators also must pay attention to the location of sensitive sites adjacent to treatment sites, such as surface water, endangered species, organic fields, vineyards and honey bee colonies. The best time to make an application is likely to coincide with when the pollinators are most active, putting pesticide applicators in a difficult position of balancing pest management needs and protecting pollinators.
Growers also must consider the timing of pesticide applications with respect to harvest and rotational intervals. Even with integrated pest management (IPM) systems, pests often are able to adapt quickly to different methods, rotations, or pesticides, or reproduce so quickly that they seem to explode within a short amount of time. Because of the nature of such pests, making timely chemical applications as part of an IPM plan is essential.
Growers and Applicators face difficult decisions when managing pests and minimizing impacts to pollinators. This plan should demonstrate how they can do both. Following the Best Management Practices (BMPs) within this document will help ensure abundant, affordable, safe and nutritious food for years to come.
Beekeeper Best Management Practices
Improve Pollinator Habitat
Work with Land Owners to Choose Apiary Locations
Be Aware of Neighboring Landowners when Placing and Moving Honey Bee Colonies
Work Constructively with Applicators when Notified of Upcoming Pesticide Applications
File Suspected Pesticide-related Bee Incidents
Use Registered Pesticides According to Label
Comply with all Requirements of New Mexico and local Beekeeping Law
Ensure Hives are Easily Visible to Applicators
Landowner/Grower Best Practice Management
Work with Beekeepers to Choose Apiary Locations
Communicate with Renters about Bee Issues
Communicate with Pesticide Issues
Agronomists; Consider Pollinator Impacts when
Making Pesticide Recommendations
Plant Bee Forage
Pesticide Applicator Best Management Practices
Use Integrated Pest Management (IPM)
Use Registered Pesticides According to the Label
When Possible, Apply Pesticides Early
in the Morning or Late Evening
Choose Products with Lower Risk to Honey Bees
Resources and References
Washington State University
New Mexico Department of Agriculture
Bee Informed Partnership
Honeybee Health Coalition – Tools for Varroa Mite Management
Oregon State University – How to Reduce Bee Poisoning from Pesticides
USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service
USEPA Pollinator Protection
Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation
NMBKA v 6.13.2022