Protection of pollinators


Bees and other pollinators account for pollinating at least 30% of the worlds crops. Without them, one in three mouthfuls of the food we eat would not exist, so keeping bee and other pollinators populations safe is of critical importance not just for them but for our own survival too.


In financial terms, the total economic value of pollination worldwide amounted to $163 billion in 2005, representing 9.5% of the value of the world agricultural production used for human food.

Pollinator populations are in significant decline worldwide and increasingly scientific evidence points to the negative and even fatal effects of systemic insecticides on these populations. The focus of the research has been on the three neonicotinoids: ClothianodinImidacloprid and Thiamethoxam, and the Phenylpyrazole Fipronil. These substances significantly affect bee populations, other pollinators and birds.

The Worldwide Integrated Assessment of the Impact of Systemic Pesticides on Biodiversity and Ecosystems (WIA) conducted a large-scale review of research about these insecticides and concluded that they are lethal to flying insects, and have caused large-scale losses of honeybee colonies. In addition, when applied as foliar sprays, the drift is likely to be highly toxic to non-target insects.

Neonicotinoids can leach into waterways and groundwater; the resultant high concentrations have depleted both total insect numbers and insect diversity. These substances can persist for years in the soil and environmental concentrations may build up with repeated use, leading to possible further negative impacts on soil invertebrates.

How to address this issue

Scientific data suggests the best way to protect pollinators is to avoid using these neonicotinoids (Clothianodin, Imidacloprid and Thiamethoxam) and also Pphenylpyrazole Fipronil. Unfortunately, these insecticides are some of the most used pesticides in tropical agriculture. SAN helps farms to design robust Integrated Pest Management (IPM) plans, as part of their own management systems, that result in reductions, substitutions and even complete eliminations of these insecticides. Our plans are designed to flex when needed according to crop and any in-country government policy limitations on substitutions.

Protecting pollinators also requires that the pesticides that do pose a risk for them may only be used if science-based risk mitigation actions are implemented. For example:

  • No spraying of insecticides when crops that provide nectar to pollinators are blooming
  • Avoiding insecticide spray-drift from reaching the core habitats of pollinators (natural ecosystems and flowering weeds) through establishing non-spray zones and vegetative barriers
  • Restoration and conservation of native vegetation for a more diverse agro-ecosystem that provides more food resources and reproduction sites, for pollinators and other beneficial insects
  • If beehives are used, they should be temporarily covered during application of insecticides and provided with a clean water source outside of the treated area

SAN Support

To help farms and businesses protect pollinators, we design customized solutions; including a range of Assurance Services such as diagnostics, assessments, definition of indicators, monitoring and evaluation, as well as reporting on the status of well-managed farms in relation to the creation and implementation of their IPM plan.

We also provide  Capacity Development assistance such as coaching and on-the-ground training. We conduct this across multiple farm management and production issues like IPM and the implementation of risk mitigation actions.

In addition, we implement Innovation & Change projects to integrate private and public sector groups, and multi-stakeholder dialogues in which we help deliver programs to increase pollinator protection and education at regional and/or multinational levels.

All of our work on pesticides risk mitigation is based on the scientific risk assessment of the Oregon State University’s Integrated Plant Protection Center.