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Tips for Reducing Pesticide Impacts on Wildlife

When used properly, pesticides can play a valuable role in controlling weeds, insects, and other pests. On the other hand, they can harm wildlife if the user does not follow label directions. Wildlife includes non-target birds, mammals, fish, aquatic invertebrates, insect pollinators, and plants.

This Web page provides tips for pesticide users in residential and agricultural settings, as well as tips for certified pesticide applicators for ways to protect wildlife from potentially harmful effects of pesticides. You will also find links to some additional sources of information on wildlife and habitat protection.

On this page:

Tips for Household Pesticide Users

  • Follow all requirements on pesticide product labels.
  • Store and dispose of pesticides properly. See instructions on pesticide product label for product- or chemical-specific instructions. Read more about:
  • Inspect pesticide containers regularly for leaks and corrosion.
  • Mix pesticides, clean equipment and rinse containers in an area where pesticides and rinse water cannot enter sewers or storm drains.
  • Keep pesticides out of waters and areas near waters.
  • Minimize potential harm to birds, beneficial insects, and fish by using pesticides only when necessary.
  • Treat only the specific areas needing treatment.
  • Most insecticides are toxic to bees. When using them outdoors, apply at night when bees are not actively foraging.
  • Read our new labeling to improve protection for bees and find more information about the advisory box.
  • Use bait stations for rodent baits that are formulated with food (e.g., peanut butter or grain bait) or place the bait where non-target wildlife cannot get to it.
  • Use landscaping techniques that help increase native habitat and reduce the need for pesticides.

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Tips for Farmers

  • Follow all requirements on pesticide product labels.
  • Keep pesticides out of storm drains and gutters.
  • Consider the characteristics of the application site (soil texture, slope, organic matter) before applying the pesticide.
  • Be aware of the geology and the relative depth of the groundwater in your area.
  • Know which pesticides leach into groundwater. Pesticides with groundwater contamination potential will include the following statement on the label:
    This chemical has properties and characteristics associated with chemicals detected in ground water. This chemical may leach into ground water if used in areas where soils are permeable, particularly where the water table is shallow.
  • Implement an Integrated Pest Management plan, which uses cultural, mechanical, and biological pest controls where possible. (Read more about IPM)
  • If a spill occurs, contain and clean it up immediately.
  • Where possible, leave a border of untreated vegetation between treated areas and areas where wildlife may be present.
  • Take care when planting treated seeds to prevent dust that could affect bees.
  • Follow label precautions designed to protect pollinators and be aware of any hives in the area that could be affected by spraying.
  • Read our new labeling to improve protection for bees.

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Tips for Certified Pesticide Applicators

  • Follow all requirements on pesticide product labels.
  • Maintain all application equipment in good working order and calibrate it regularly.
  • Check equipment for leaks and malfunctions before use to minimize the potential for accidental spills.
  • Rinse pesticide application equipment and pesticide containers on a solid surface where it won’t drain to waterways.
  • If not specified on the label, apply when wind speed is between 3 and 10 mph.
  • For ground boom applications, apply using a nozzle height of no more than 2 feet above the ground or crop canopy, unless a greater height is required for efficacy or safety.
  • Use a low pressure, large droplet sprayer, and spray close to the crop canopy or the ground.
  • Do not spray if heavy rain is expected within 48 hours as the pesticide may wash away from the area of application and into water bodies.
  • Where possible, leave a vegetative buffer strip between the field and areas where wildlife may be present, including downhill aquatic habitats. Be sure to follow any label requirements related to buffers, as well.
  • Make sure you get and maintain proper training and certification.

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Some Resources for Reducing Pesticide Effects on Wildlife

Note: The listed resources external to EPA do not necessarily represent EPA’s opinion. For EPA's most current pesticide-related information, please consult EPA resources.

Pesticide Use Around Homes

  • Pesticides and Water Quality Exit-- Information from the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources about how consumer pesticides can affect creeks, rivers, and oceans.
  • Biopesticides Fact Sheet -- EPA’s biopesticides fact sheet explains the purpose of biopesticides and the benefits of their use.
  • Protecting Wildlife from Pesticides Exit-- Information from the National Pesticide Information Center (NPIC) on pesticide impacts on wildlife and tips to minimize exposures.
  • GreenScaping -- EPA brochure with lawn care tips, including reducing pesticide use.
  • Healthy Lawn, Healthy Environment  -- EPA brochure provides consumers with solutions for an environmentally friendly yard.
  • Backyard Conservation -- USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) publication that highlights 10 conservation activities adapted from farms and ranches that can be used in your backyard.

Information for Farmers and Certified Applicators

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