Read the Label: Protecting Non-target Plants and Animals

April 10, 2024 9:22 AM
Blog Post

read the labelIt is important to read and follow all label instructions before applying a pesticide to insure you are following all measures to protect plants and animals, including federally listed threatened and endangered species. The label may instruct you to comply with Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) procedures or other regulations and requirements regarding the use of the pesticide product. For example, a pesticide label might refer you to consult and follow measures contained in an Endangered Species Protection Bulletin; check the Sensitive Crops Registry; or to ensure that you have the minimum number of mitigation measure practices in order to use a product. Make sure to record the date you access this information and save any relevant documentation.

Endangered Species

The Endangered Species Act lists certain plants and animals as endangered or threatened. Under the Endangered Species Act, it is a federal offense to take (kill) or otherwise harm these species. When the EPA registers a pesticide, or re-evaluates it in registration review, they have a responsibility to ensure that listed endangered or threatened species are protected from pesticides. It is the EPA’s goal to remove or reduce the threat that pesticides pose to endangered species and their habitat.

For some pesticides, additional application restrictions exist due to endangered species concerns, so it is important to read and follow the label. The label may refer you to download an Endangered Species Protection Bulletin within six months prior to the pesticide application. Read the tutorial for the instructions on using Bulletins Live! Two before using the application for the first time, or if you have questions as you use Bulletins Live! Two.

These bulletins provide geographically specific Pesticide Use Limitation Areas (PULA) for the protection of threatened and endangered species and their designated critical habitat. If your pesticide application is within a PULA, you will need to read and follow the limitations for the product. If you are outside of a PULA, you will need to document that there are no limitations within your application area during the month of application.

Mitigation Measures

The pesticide label may also contain a “pick list” of management practices to reduce spray drift, runoff, or erosion. You must demonstrate that you meet a minimum number of mitigation practices in order to use the product. For example, a spray drift buffer would be required (as needed) based on application equipment and droplet sizes. For runoff and erosion mitigation, EPA offers a menu of measures to be chosen by the applicator.

Iowa Sensitive Crops Registry

Iowa partners with FieldWatch™ registries, including DriftWatch™ as the Iowa Sensitive Crops Registry platform for producers of commercial crops sensitive to pesticides. Producers of high-value specialty, certified organic, and non-GMO line crops register their sites online and provide contact information about their operation. Pesticide applicators should use DriftWatch™ to help determine the location of specialty crops in their areas to help prevent and manage drift effects.

Pollinator Protection

Both private and commercial pesticide applicators must read and follow any label restrictions about pollinators. Commercial and hobby beekeepers register their hives using the FieldWatch™ BeeCheck™ Apiary Registry. The Iowa Bee Rule requires commercial pesticide applicators to check the BeeCheck™ Apiary Registry before making an application to a blooming crop with a pesticide labeled as “toxic to bees.” Commercial pesticide applicators cannot make the application during the most active bee foraging hours of the day (between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m.) if the application site is within one mile of any actively registered hive. Neither commercial or private pesticide applicators are required to contact the hive owner, but communication goes a long way to foster long term relationships. Only hives listed on the BeeCheck™ Apiary Registry are covered under the Iowa Bee Rule.


Elizabeth Danielson Extension Specialist

Betsy Danielson is an extension specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach in the Pesticide Safety Education Program (PSEP).