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Extension > Garden > Landscape, Nursery and Greenhouse Management > Insecticides used in greenhouse and landscapes and toxicity to pollinators

Insecticides used in greenhouse and landscapes and toxicity to pollinators

Vera Krischik

Do systemic, neonicotinyl insecticides contribute to pollinator and beneficial insect decline?

The conservation of beneficial insects, that includes bees, insect predators, parasitic wasps, and butterflies, is an essential part of Integrated Pest management (IPM) programs. IPM promotes multiple tactics to manage pests and to suppress the population size below levels that will damage the plant. IPM tactics include cultural control, sanitation, biological control, using insecticides friendly to beneficial insects, and finally the use of conventional insecticides. IPM recognizes that the few remaining pest insects will support beneficial predators and parasitic wasps. When scouting plants for pest insects, check for populations of both pest and beneficial insects, such as lady beetles and bees. If beneficial insects are present, wait to spray insecticides to see if the beneficial insects control the pest insects or use specific insecticides that only target the pest insect. Do not apply insecticides while plants are in full bloom. If possible avoid beneficial insects by spraying leaves in the evening when bees and lady beetles are not foraging.

Neonicotinoid systemic insecticides have been implicated in the decline of bees, butterflies, and other beneficial insects. The European Union banned the use of neonicotinoid insecticides from 2014-2016 on crops and plants that bee's visit. The concern was the residue in pollen and nectar and their negative affects on survival and foraging behavior of bees.

There are few systemic insecticides, while there are many systemic herbicides and fungicides. Systemic, neonicotinoid insecticides are the most widely used insecticides in the world, due to their low mammalian toxicity and the ability of the insecticide to move systemically from soil into the entire plant, including pollen and nectar. Application methods include seed treatments, foliar sprays, soil and trunk drenches, and trunk-injections. Flowers that open after being sprayed with contact insecticides do not contain insecticide residue, while toxicity to pests lasts for 1-3 weeks. However, flowers that open after systemic insecticides are sprayed can contain the insecticide residue for many months in both the leaves and pollen and nectar.

There are six neonicotinoid active ingredients, imidacloprid, dinotefuran, thiamethoxam, and clothianidin, of which acetamiprid and thiacloprid are the least toxic to bees. There is another systemic insecticide, fipronil, that is used around structures that is also toxic to bees. You will find these active ingredients listed on the insecticide label in small print. The neonicotinyl class of insecticides is highly toxic to bees and kills bees at around 180 ppb in flower nectar or pollen. However, sublethal doses of neonicotinyl insecticide starting around 10 ppb, causes bees to lose navigation and foraging skills. The longevity and amount of the neonicotinoid in the pollen and nectar will depend on application method, concentration applied, and binding capacity of the soil.

The use of neonicotinyl insecticides as trunk injections and soil drenches for ash trees is important to slow the spread of the exotic, invasive Emerald Ash Borer and other invasive pests. As bees do not collect ash pollen in quantities, the risk to bee pollinators is low. In contrast, the use of neonicotinyl insecticides on flowering garden plants, shrubs and trees, including linden and basswood trees can kill bees and beneficial insects that utilize the flowers for pollen and nectar. It is wise to avoid using systemic neonicotinyl insecticides on flowering plants that bees visit regularly. Instead use spot treatments of contact insecticides.

The new EPA bee icon and bee advisory box on insecticide labels

EPA has added new language to neonicotinyl insecticide products (imidacloprid, dinotefuran, thiamethoxam, and clothianidin) to protect bees and other insect pollinators. The bee icon above signals that the pesticide has potential to harm bees. The language in the new bee advisory box explains application restrictions to protect bees.

Bee and other insect pollinators can be exposed to the product from:

  1. Direct contact during foliar application or contact with residues on plant surfaces after foliar application.
  2. Ingestion of residues in nectar and pollen when the pesticide is applied as a seed treatment, soil, tree injection, as well as foliar application.

When using this product, take steps to:

  1. Minimize exposure when bees are foraging on pollinator attractive plants around the application site.
  2. Minimize drift of this product onto beehives or to off-site pollinator attractive habitat. Drift of this product onto beehives can result in bee kills.

Nursery and greenhouse growers have alternatives to systemic insecticides. For the last 10 years, the EPA has been registering selective, contact insecticides that conserve beneficial insects and pollinators.

  1. Pymetrozine (Endeavor), Flonicamid (Aria) stops aphids from feeing
  2. Pyriproxyfen (Distance), insect growth regulator, prevents larvae from developing into adults
  3. Beauveria bassiana (Botanigard) microbial
  4. S-kinoprene (Enstar II), juvenile hormone mimic
  5. Spinosad (Conserve, Entrust) bee friendly when dried
  6. Miticides (Akari, Hexygon)

Bee kills should be reported to Minnesota Department of Agriculture (, type bee kill into search), National Pesticide Information Center (, and the EPA (

Insecticide Toxicity to Bees By Active Ingredient for Nursery and Landscape

Chemical class

Examples of common names

Examples of trade names















Imidacloprid (I)
thiamethoxam (T)
clothianidin (C)
dinotefuran (D)
imid+bifenthrin (I,B)

Merit, Marathon
Flagship, Meridian,
Arena, Aloft,
Field crops: Gaucho (I), Poncho (C), Cruiser (T) (seed treatments),
Admire/Provado (I), Venom (C),
Platinum (T)





Acetamiprid (A), thiacloprid (T)

Tristar (A), Assail (A), Calypso (T)






acephate, chlorpyrifos, dimethoate, malathion, phosmet

Orthene, Dursban/Lorsban, Dimethoate, Malathion, Imidan






bifenthrin, cyfluthrin, fenpropathrin, lambda-cyhalothrin, permethrin

Attain/Talstar, Tempo, Decathalon, Tame, Scimitar, Astro






azadirachtin, neem oil

Pyganic, Azatin,
Ornazin, Triact





Insect growth regulators

diflubenzuron, tebufenozide

Adept, Dimilin, Confirm





azadirachtin, buprofezin, pyriproxyfen

Aza-Direct, Azatin, Ornazin, Talus, Distance











Juvenile hormone


Enstar II












Macrocyclic lactones

abamectin/avermectin, emamectin benzoate

Avid, Tree-Age






acequinocyl, extoxazole, fenpyroximate, fenbutatin oxide

Shuttle, TetraSan, Akari, Vendex





clofentezine, hexythiazox

Ovation, Hexagon



















Conserve/Entrust, less toxic dried





Tetronic acids







Tetronic acid derv







GABA-gated chloride channel


Fipronil, Termidor





Pyridine carboxamide







Pyridine azomethines







Other insecticides

Bacillus thuringiensis, Cydia pomonella granulovirus

Bt/Dipel, Carpovirusine/Cyd-X





Kaolin clay, soaps

Surround, M-Pede





horticultural mineral oils

Monterey Oil











Insecticide Toxicity to Bees in Consumer Products Used in Landscape

This table lists the trade names of insecticides available to homeowners. The common names of the insecticides are followed by the commercial trade names. Not all products are listed in this table. Be sure to read the label.
Toxicity to bees: 1= highly toxic; 2= moderately toxic; 3= nontoxic to bees

Common name

Trade names

Trade names continued

1 acephate

Acephate, Bonide Systemic Insect Control


2 acetamiprid

Ortho Flower, Fruit & Vegetable Insect Killer

Ortho Rose & Flower Insect Killer

3 Bacillus thuringiensis var. kurstaki (bacterial toxin)

Green Step Caterpillar Control
Safer Caterpillar Killer

Safer Garden Dust

1 beta-cyfluthrin

Bay Advanced Dual Action Rose & Flower Insect Killer (+imidacloprid)
Bayer Advanced Home Pest Control Indoor/Outdoor

Bayer Advanced PowerForce Multi-Insect Killer Granules

1 bifenthrin

Bonide Eight Insect Control Flower & Vegetable
Green Thumb Premium Insect Control
Hi-Yield Bug Blaster II

Ortho Bug-B-Gon MAX Insect Killer for Lawns
Ortho Bug-B-Gon MAX Lawn & Garden Insect Killer
Scott's Super Turf Builder with Summerguard

canola oil
1 contact
3 residual

Bayer Advanced Natria Multi-Insect Control
Earth-tone Horticulture Oil
Earth-tone Insect Control (+pyrethrins)

Gardens Alive House Guardian Insect Spray (+pyrethrins)
Ortho Elementals Garden Insect Killer (+pyrethrins)
Gardens Alive Pyola (+pyrethrins)

1 carbaryl

Bayer Advanced Complete Insect Killer for Gardens
Bonide Dragon Dust (+copper)
Bonide Fruit Spray (+malathion, captan)

Bonide Rose Rx Rose & Flower Dust (+malathion, captan)
Ortho® Bug-Geta Plus Snail, Slug & Insect (+metaldehyde)

3 chlorantraniliprole



clove oil
1 contact
3 residual

Bonide Mite-X (+cottonseed oil, garlic extract)

EcoSmart Home Pest Control (+rosemary oil, peppermint oil, thyme oil)

Cottonseed oil
1 contact
3 residual

Bonide Mite-X (+clove oil, garlic extract)

Gardens Alive Oil-Away Supreme Insecticidal Spray

1 cyfluthrin

Bayer Advanced Vegetable & Garden Insect Spray

Bayer Advanced PowerForce Multi-Insect Killer Liquid

1 deltamethrin

Hi-Yield Kill-A-Bug II Dust
Hi-Yield Kill-A-Bug II Indoor/Outdoor Spray

Hi-Yield Turf Ranger Insect Control Granules
Hi-Yield Veg. & Ornamental Insect Control Granules

1 diatomaceous earth

Garden Safe Crawling Insect Killer

Natural Guard Crawling Insect Control

1 gamma-cyhalothrin

Spectracide Triazicide Once & Done Insect Killer

3 garlic

Bonide Mite-X (+clove oil, cottonseed oil)

3 halofenozide

Dow Mach II

3 Heterorhabditis bacteriophora

(insect-attacking nematode)
Gardens Alive Grub-Away Beneficial Nematodes

1 imidacloprid Systemic

Related neonicotinyls:
  • thiamethoxam (Flagship, Meridian)
  • clothianidin (Arena, Aloft)
  • dinotefuran (Safari)
  • imid+bifenthrin (Allectus)
  • Bayer Advanced All-in-One Rose & Flwr (+tebuconazole)
    Bayer Advanced Dual Action Rose & Flwr (+beta-cyfluthrin)
    Bayer Advanced Fruit, Citrus, & Veg. Insect Control
    Bayer Advanced Season-Long Grub Control
    Bayer Advanced 3-in-1 Insect, Disease, & Mite Control (+tau-fluvalinate, tebuconazole)
    Bayer Advanced 2-in-1 Systemic Rose & Flower Care
    Bayer Advanced 12 Mo. Tree & Shrub Insect Control
    Bayer Advanced 12 Mo. Tree & Shrub Protect & Feed
    Bayer Advanced 2-in-1 Insect Control +Fertilizer Spikes

    Bonide Annual Grub Beater
    Bonide Annual Tree & Shrub Insect Control
    Bonide Borer-Miner Killer with Systemaxx
    Bonide Guard-N-Grow
    Bonide Rose Rx Systemic Drench (+tebuconazole)
    Bonide Systemic Insect Control with Systemaxx
    Ferti-lome Rose & Flower Food w/Systemic Insecticide
    Ferti-lome Tree & Shrub Systemic
    Hi-Yield Systemic Insect Granules
    Ortho Max Tree & Shrub Insect Control
    Ortho Tree & Shrub Insect Control

    insecticidal soap (potassium salts of fatty acids)
    1 contact
    3 residual

    Bayer Advanced Natria Insecticidal Soap
    Bonide Insecticidal Soap
    Concern Insect Killing Soap
    Concern Tomato & Vegetable Insect Killer (+pyrethrins)
    Earth Options by Raid Insecticidal Soap
    Earth-tone Insecticidal Soap
    Garden Safe Insecticidal Soap
    Ortho Elementals Insecticidal Soap
    Safer End-ALL Insect Killer (+neem, pyrethrins)

    Safer Fruit & Vegetable Insect Killer
    Safer Insect Killing Soap
    Safer Rose & Flower Insect Killer
    Safer 3-in-1 Garden Spray (+sulfur)
    Safer Tomato & Vegetable Insect Killer (+pyrethrins)
    Safer Yard & Garden Insect Killer (+pyrethrins)

    3 iron phosphate

    Bayer Advanced Dual Action Snail & Slug Killer Bait
    Bayer Advanced Snail & Slug Killer Bait
    Bonide Bug & Slug Killer (+spinosad)
    Bonide Slug Magic

    Ferramol Slug & Snail Bait
    Ortho Elementals Slug & Snail Killer
    Gardens Alive Escar-Go

    3 kaolin

    Surround at Home Crop Protectant

    1 lambda-cyhalothrin

    Bonide Beetle Killer
    Bonide Caterpillar Killer

    Bonide Colorado Potato Beetle Beater
    Spectracide Triazicide Once & Done Insect Killer

    2 malathion

    Bonide Malathion
    Bonide Fruit Spray (+carbaryl, captan)

    Bonide Rose Rx Rose & Flower Dust (+carbaryl, captan)
    Ortho Max Malathion Insect Spray

    3 metaldehyde

    Enforcer Everlast Snail & Slug Bait
    Hi-Yield Improved Slug & Snail Bait

    Ortho Bug-Geta Plus Snail, Slug & Insect Killer (+carbaryl)
    Ortho Bug-Geta Snail & Slug Killer

    2 neem oil

    Bonide Bon-Neem II (+pyrethrins)
    Bonide Neem Oil
    Bonide Rose Rx 3-in-1
    Concern Garden Defense Multi-purpose Spray
    Ferti-lome Fruit Tree Spray (+pyrethrins)

    Ferti-lome Triple Action Plus
    Garden Safe Neem Oil Extract
    Green Light Fruit Tree Spray (+pyrethrins)
    Safer BioNEEM Insecticide & Repellent
    Safer End-ALL Insect Killer (+insect. soap, pyrethrins)

    3 parasitic nematodes

    Many trade names

    3 Paenibacillus popilliae

    (Milky spore disease)
    Many trade names

    Product is not very effective

    1 permethrin

    Bayer Advanced Complete Insect Dust for Gardens
    Borer-Miner Killer
    Bonide Eight Garden & Home Insect Control
    Bonide Eight Insect Control Garden Dust
    Bonide Eight Insect Control Vegetable, Fruit, & Flower
    Bonide Eight Insect Control Yard & Garden
    Bonide Total Pest Control Outdoor
    Enforcer Outdoor Insect Killer
    Ferti-lome Indoor – Outdoor Multipurpose Insect Spray

    Green Thumb Flying Insect Killer (+d-trans allethrin)
    Hi-Yield Indoor Outdoor Broad Use Insecticide
    Hi-Yield Kill-A-Bug II Lawn Granules
    Hi-Yield Lawn, Garden, Pet, and Livestock Insect Control
    Hi-Yield Turf, Termite, and Ornamental Insect Control
    Ortho Bug-B-Gon MAX Garden Insect Killer Dust

    petroleum oil
    1 contact
    3 residual

    Bonide All Seasons Horticultural Spray Oil
    Bonide All Seasons Spray Oil

    Horticultural Spray Oil
    Ortho Volck Oil Spray

    1-3 pyrethrins principally from plant species Chrysanthemum cinerariaefolium

    Bayer Advanced Natria Insect, Disease, & Mite Control (+sulfur)
    Bonide Bug Beater Yard & Garden
    Bonide Citrus, Fruit, & Nut Orchard Spray (+sulfur)
    Bonide Garden Dust (+sulfur, copper)
    Bonide Japanese Beetle Killer
    Bonide Pyrethrins Garden Insect Spray
    Bonide Tomato & Vegetable 3-in-1 (+sulfur)
    Concern Tomato & Veg. Insect Killer (+insecticidal soap)
    Earth-tone Insect Control (+canola oil)
    Ferti-lome Quick Kill Home, Garden, and Pet Spray
    Ferti-lome Triple Action Plus II
    Safer End-ALL Insect Killer (+neem, insecticidal soap)

    Safer Tomato & Vegetable Insect Killer (+insecticidal soap)
    Garden Safe Fruit & Vegetable Insect Killer
    Garden Safe Houseplant & Garden Insect Killer
    Garden Safe Multi-Purpose Garden Insect Killer
    Garden Safe Rose & Flower Insect Killer
    Gardens Alive Rose & Ornamental Plant Spray (+sulfur)
    Ortho Elementals 3-in-1 Rose & Flower Care (+sulfur)
    Gardens Alive Pyola (+canola oil)
    Safer Yard & Garden Insect Killer (+insecticidal soap)

    3 sodium ferric EDTA

    Safer Dr. T Slug & Snail Killer

    3 spinosad, when residue is dry

    Bonide Bug & Slug Killer (+iron phosphate)
    Bonide Captain Jack's Deadbug Brew
    Gardens Alive Bulls-Eye Bioinsecticide

    Ferti-lome Borer, Bagworm, Leafminer & Tent Caterpillar Spray

    3 trichlorfon


    Bayer Advanced 24-Hour Grub Killer Plus

    References to commercial products or trade names are made with the understanding that no discrimination is intended and no product endorsement by the University of Minnesota Extension is implied. From: Krupke, C.H., et al. 2012. Beekeeping: Protecting Honey Bees From Insecticides. Purdue Extension E-53-W. URL: ; Nixon, P.L. 2011. Names of General Use Insecticides. University of Illinois. URL:

    Revised 2015

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