Under a settlement with the Attorney General’s Office, filed on Oct. 26, 2016, Bayer CropScience has agreed to pay $75,000 and change its advertising practices to resolve allegations that it misled consumers about the potential risks its neonicotinoid containing pesticides pose to bees, other pollinators and species, and the environment.

Neonicotinoids are systemic chemicals designed to spread their toxin throughout the plant, including into the plant’s pollen, where the toxic pesticides are easily accessible to pollinators. In addition to causing harm to bees, neonicotinoid exposure on land and in bodies of water has been associated with adverse effects on fish, amphibians, birds, and bats.

Many nursery plants are treated with neonicotinoids prior to sale leaving the pesticide present throughout the plant at purchase. There currently is no requirement for neonicotinoid-treated plants to be labelled. Many home improvement retailers have announced their commitment to phasing out the sale of flowering plants that have been treated with neonicotinoids, in recognition of the harm they cause to bees, other pollinators and the environment.

Below are some answers to commonly asked questions about residential pest control:

Q: What can I do to help protect bees and other pollinators on my property?

  • Consider making your yard or garden pesticide free and pollinator friendly. Plant bee-attractive plants that flower throughout the year to provide food and make sure that these have not been treated with bee-toxic pesticides.
  • https://www.epa.gov/pollinator-protection/basic-tips-consumers-protect-pollinators
  • https://ag.umass.edu/fact-sheets/gardening-to-support-pollinators-0.
  • Learn the names of common neonicotinoids, so you can be an educated consumer.  Imidacloprid, chlothianidin, dinotefuran, thiamethoxam, thiacloprid and acetamiprid.  Check labels and avoid lawn and garden products that contain neonicotinoids.
  • Be sure any seed you purchase for your garden has not been treated with neonicotinoids.Some seeds are treated with neonicotinoids prior to sale, so that when the seed germinates and the plant grows, the pesticide will be present throughout the plant. 
  • Check with the retailer when you buy your garden plants to ensure that they have not been treated with bee-toxic neonicotinoid pesticides.  

Q: Do pesticide applicators need to be licensed to do pest control work in and around my home?

Yes. Massachusetts law requires that anyone who commercially applies pesticides must have a currently valid license. The license indicates that the operator has been trained and is knowledgeable about pesticide applications.

Q: Should applicators have their licenses with them when they come to my home?

Yes. Pest control operators are required by law to carry their license with them, and should be able to show it on demand. Each applicator should have a license naming himself or herself as the licensed applicator – a license that names a company instead of the individual does not meet regulatory requirements. If you have any questions about an applicator’s license, or suspect misuse of pesticides, call the Massachusetts Pesticide Program at 617-626-1700, or the Attorney General’s Consumer Advocacy and Response Division at 617-727-8400.

Q: How can I ensure that a pest controller uses only the least intrusive means possible in treating my pest problem?

Unless you communicate to the pest controller your concerns about pesticides, you may end up having more chemicals applied in and around your home than is necessary.

Q: Is it important to correctly identify the cause of the pest problem before treating it?

Absolutely. A cornerstone of proper pest management, either in your home or your yard, is identifying the sources of your pest problems so they are treated properly. Before hiring, make sure that the pest controller can demonstrate to you a working knowledge of current methods of integrated pest management.

Q: I have heard of “Integrated Pest Management.”  What is it?

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) describes pest control practices, in the home, in the yard, in schools, and anywhere that pests may be present, that stress prudence and minimizing chemical use in responding to pest problems. IPM practices include closely monitoring the need for pest control, improving sanitation, installing physical barriers where appropriate, using natural pest enemies, and cautiously using the lowest risk pesticides capable of addressing the need.