Fruit Research & Extension Center, Entomology, Pennsylvania State University, 290 University Dr, Biglerville, PA, 17307, USA; Department of Entomology, 501 ASI Building, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA, 16802, USA; Current Address: Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology, 217 Plant Science Building, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR, 72701, USA. Electronic address: [Email]
Insect pollinators such as bees and syrphid flies play a crucial role in pollinating many food crops, and their diversity and abundance may be influenced by pesticide application patterns. Over three years, we assessed the ecotoxicological impacts on the diversity and abundance of bees and syrphid flies between reduced-risk pesticide programs and standard, conventional pesticide programs in paired plots at six spatially distinct commercial apple orchards. In particular, we quantified pesticide inputs, environmental impact, and community response of bees and syrphids to these pesticide programs. Relative environmental impacts of reduced-risk versus conventional pesticide programs were calculated using Environmental Impact Quotient analysis, while ecological impacts were characterized by assessing the abundance, richness, and species assemblages of bees and syrphids. Adopting a reduced-risk pesticide program for apple pest management reduced the use (in terms of kg a.i./ha) of organophosphate and pyrethroid insecticides by approximately 97.6% and 100% respectively, but increased the use of neonicotinoid pesticides (acetamiprid, imidacloprid, thiacloprid) by 40.4% compared to the orchards under standard conventional pesticide program. Regardless of pesticide inputs, abundance, richness and species assemblages of bees and syrphids did not differ between reduced-risk and conventional pest management programs. However, the environmental impact of pesticide inputs was reduced by 89.8% in reduced-risk pesticide program. These findings suggest that the implementation of reduced-risk pesticide program may reduce pesticide environmental impact, in addition to being safer to farm workers, without adversely affecting the robust community composition of bees and syrphids in commercial apple orchards in the mid-Atlantic region.