Bees and other pollinators
Bees pollinate our food crops and gardens and make us honey, so we work to keep bees and other pollinators safe. Find out how we do this, and play your part.
We protect bees and other pollinators, such as moths, butterflies, hoverflies, and birds, by setting the rules around when, how and where insecticides should be used.
These rules apply whether the insecticide is for use in your garden, or in bigger agricultural or horticultural settings. Label information is printed on all insecticides, whether you buy yours at the supermarket, garden centre or trade outlet; whether the product is ‘natural’ (for example, a derris dust or pyrethrin), or created in a laboratory.
Follow the rules to keep pollinators safe
The rules around insecticide use need to be followed to ensure the product remains effective in controlling those insects that attack our plants, yet keeps bees and other pollinators safe and free from harm.
In New Zealand strict regulations have been in place for many years around the use of a class of insecticides that contain neonicotinoids. Neonicotinoids are systemic insecticides. This means they move around plant tissues to protect the entire plant from insects. They are used to control insects that can damage some fruit, ornamental, cereal, and vegetable crops. They are also used as a seed treatment in maize or cereals (which are wind-pollinated) to help crops become established.
Neonicotinoids have been available for use in New Zealand and Australia for more than 20 years. Like many chemicals, they come with risks as well as benefits. As we are New Zealand’s environmental regulator, it is our job to manage those risks.
We do this by setting rules around neonicotinoid use that include special measures solely to protect bees.
These rules include:
No spraying near hives.
No spraying on crops likely to be visited by bees, or when bees are foraging.
No spraying when flowering crops or weeds are present in the treated area.
Avoid spraying budding or flowering plants. (This restriction means users cannot use neonicotinoids on plants that are in flower, or even those that are going to flower soon.)
Most importantly, neonicotinoids must not be used on flowering crops.
Protecting our environment
We take our responsibility to protect the environment very seriously. We review international developments and are always on the alert for research that might indicate our New Zealand rules around the use of neonicotinoid insecticides need to be tightened. In addition, we work closely with Apiculture New Zealand and the Bee Industry Group to monitor the welfare of bees.
You may have read that the European Union (EU) has banned neonicotinoid insecticides. This is not correct. The EU has restricted the use of three neonicotinoid insecticides: clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam, in response to concerns about colony collapse disorder. Colony collapse disorder has not been seen in New Zealand and we are confident that the rules we place on neonicotinoids adequately protect our pollinators.
Keeping watch over Aotearoa
We require applicants seeking approval for a new substance, such as a neonicotinoid, to provide robust data about its composition and proposed use. We also demand a high level of scientific evidence about its safety and effect before considering whether or not to approve it.
In June 2014, we declined an application for a seed treatment that contained a neonicotinoid because the applicant was unable to demonstrate that it could be used in a way that would provide sufficient protection to people and the environment.
If a neonicotinoid is approved for use, we continue to monitor international developments and the latest available research to keep up to date with information in connection with it. We also keep in contact with key stakeholders concerned about the wellbeing of pollinators.
If there was a growing body of evidence that a neonicotinoid insecticide was causing harm in New Zealand, or if an overseas regulator banned a neonicotinoid, we could reassess it, to see if it should continue to be used here. A reassessment can result in an approval being cancelled or having more strict rules placed on how, where and when the neonicotinoid might be used.
Our world-wide approach
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has initiated the Pollinator Incidents Information System to record and share pollinator incidents with regulators throughout the OECD.
As an OECD member country, New Zealand has introduced this system to monitor the situation here. We have taken responsibility for reporting pollinator incidents back to the OECD. This system will enable us to compare what’s happening in New Zealand with other countries, and to identify whether we need to take a different course of action to ensure our pollinators are protected.
To meet this commitment, we need help from beekeepers and others who observe a pollinator incident to report it as quickly as possible.
Report pollinator incidents to the EPA
It’s well known that our pollinators are struggling to survive – the varroa mite and colony collapse disorder are reducing bee numbers throughout the world. Other pollinators such as bumble bees and hover flies are also struggling. To monitor what’s happening to our pollinators, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has initiated a Pollinator Incidents Information System. The goal of this system is to record and share pollinator incidents with regulators throughout the OECD.
As an OECD member country, New Zealand has committed to introducing this system to monitor the situation here. The EPA will take responsibility for reporting pollinator incidents back to the OECD. It will enable us to compare what’s happening in New Zealand with other countries, and to identify whether we need to take a different course of action to ensure our pollinators are protected.
To be able to meet this commitment, the EPA needs help from beekeepers and other people who observe pollinators to report any incident as quickly as possible. To report an incident, fill out the form below and email it to HSincidents@epa.govt.nz.
If the incident relates to pesticides we will inform the appropriate enforcement agency under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act. We will keep you informed of the process.