Pollinator Protection Plan

NMBKA Pollinator Protection Plan


The purpose of the New Mexico Beekeepers Associations Pollinator Protection Plan is to encourage communication and cooperation between beekeepers, growers, farmers, pesticide applicators and other parties that are interested in protecting pollinators from pesticides. We encourage any stakeholder to use this document as a blueprint in developing or using as a guide in developing their own Pollinator Protection Plan. NMBKA is grateful to the Washington State Department of Agriculture for providing a plan that inspired us to adapt one for our state beekeeping organization. We encourage all relevant private and public entities to have a pollinator protection plan in place.

New Mexico, USA, also known as The Land of Enchantment is home to many known species of pollinators due to numerous specialized habitats and ecosystems. The size of the region, and proximity to the subtropics of neighboring 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 eco-regions 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; 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 (pine nuts). These cultivations are all fed by the Rio Grande, San Juan, and Pecos rivers or their tributaries. New Mexico is home to over 23 sovereign Indigenous nations including 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 300 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 rising temperatures because 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 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 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 Bee Informed Partnership (BIP) reported that the colony loss in New Mexico for 2019/2020 was 41.5%. Reporting were 17 beekeepers with 104 colonies. The losses dropped to 23.1% in 2020/2021 with 11 beekeepers reporting with 100 colonies. NMBKA encourages beekeepers to participate in reporting colony losses to BIP so that we can have better statistics.

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, landowners 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. Up until 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 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.

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; and

  • instituting labeling requirements and educational materials that will help guide consumers.


We also recommend a commonsense approach that would control the use of neonicotinoids in New Mexico by:

  • Halting use of neonicotinoid products by backyard gardeners and other unlicensed applicators;

  • Requiring labeling of plants and plant materials that have been treated with neonicotinoids;

  • Prohibiting applications of all neonicotinoid products on bee-attractive crop plants during bloom; and

  • Continuing 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 honey (carbohydrate) and pollen (protein), in order to overwinter in a healthy state. Providing less nutritious overwintering foods, such as high fructose corn syrup or sugar water, 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 to avoid problems with resistance. Improper use of miticides by beekeepers can harm the bees and can contaminate hive products like honey. Beekeepers improperly using miticides or using miticides prophylactically may also contribute to or create 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 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 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.

In summary, 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 reduce pollinators’ 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.

BeeCheck 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. Beecheck is a no-cost apiary registry service provided by FieldWatch, Inc.

BeeCheck could also be used to provide information regarding the location of managed honey bee colonies in urban areas. Coupled with an active public education program, the website could be helpful in protecting managed honey bee colonies in urban areas from non-agricultural pesticide use.

Pesticide User Challenges

Growers and Applicators encounter a number of challenges in their day-to-day 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 are often 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. This adaptability and quick reproduction of such pests makes timely chemical applications as part of an IPM plan essential.

Growers and applicators face difficult decisions when managing pests and minimizing impacts to pollinators. This plan demonstrates some ways 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

Varroa Control

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

Report Possible 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

Avoid Drift

Notify Beekeepers in the Area Before Pesticide Applications

Choose Products with Lower Risk to Honey Bees

Resources and References

Washington State University

New Mexico Department of Agriculture

          Pesticide Compliance

Bee Informed Partnership


Honeybee Health Coalition – Tools for Varroa Mite Management

Oregon State University – How to Reduce Bee Poisoning from Pesticides

Pollinator Partnership


USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service 

          Insects & Pollinator

USEPA Pollinator Protection 

Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation

NMBKA v 7.21.2022