Honey Bees: A Critical Component of Our Agriculture System

EDM Digest (from American Military University) August 5, 2019

By Dr. Brian Blodgett: Faculty Member, Homeland Security, American Military University

Honey Bee EDM.jpg

To many Americans, the sound of a bee’s buzzing results in a swift swipe of the air to shoo the bee away. Finding a hive of bees in a wall of your house will usually result in a call to an exterminator, rather than to the local beekeeping club to have an apiarist safely remove the hive. 

Bee Stings Are Painful and Could Be Deadly

The fear of bees, or melissophobia, is common, often the result of having been stung as a child. However, some people are so allergic to a bee’s sting, they can have a dangerous reaction such as anaphylaxis that could cause death if not immediately treated.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently published data showing that hornet, wasp and bee stings were the underlying cause of death for 1,109 individuals between 2000 and 2017. That equates to an average of 62 deaths a year. The lowest number of deaths, 43, occurred in 2001 and the highest number was 89 in 2017. Male victims accounted for approximately 80% of the deaths.

A 2016 report by The Ohio State University stated that an estimated one to two million people in the U.S. are allergic to insect venom. Up to one million individuals visit emergency departments each year. The cost for an emergency room visit varies considerably depending on the severity of the reaction and the patient’s insurance plan.

While honey bee stings can be deadly, the bees will rarely attack you unless you threaten their hive or if they are seriously disturbed outside their nest.

When honey bees are threatened, they take a protective stance and extend their stinger, stinging their victim. Once the stinger punctures the skin, it pumps out venom and alarm pheromones, attracting other bees. If a bee decides to attack someone, it will be its last act because its stinger is left in the skin of its victim. In attempting to fly away, the bee disembowels itself.

The African honey bee, found in the southern areas of the United States, is no deadlier than the other six primary species of honeybees found in the United States. Instead, they are much more sensitive to the alarm pheromone, resulting in a considerably faster response to danger and their clustering in large groups. They will attack nearly anything in sight that is moving; they will pursue a person much farther than the other bee species.

Honey Bees Make a Significant Contribution to Agriculture

While the honey produced by bees is wonderfully useful and healthy, the bees’ contribution to agriculture is much more significant. A single bee in one flight can visit up to 50 or more flowers, pollinating each as it flies along.

If you enjoy fresh fruits such as strawberries, blueberries, cherries, grapefruit and apples, thank the honey bee. If you like broccoli, nuts, cucumbers, onions and asparagus,  thank the honey bee again. While honey bees are not the only pollinators, they are the most well-known and among the most prolific. Honey bees are estimated to support about $20 billion worth of American crop production annually.

Also, consider the importance to wildlife of our flowering plants and fruit trees. Without the bees, our herbivores and frugivores (animals that feed on fruit) would have a much harder time finding food. According to the U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA), pollinators are responsible for one of every three bites of food we eat and they increase our nation’s crop value by more than $15 billion a year.

In fact, honey bees are so important to agriculture, they are often trucked around the country during pollination season to help farmers grow their crops.

Each winter, beekeepers send their hives to California to pollinate the almond trees. Growers rent nearly two million colonies, over 60% of the nation’s domestic bees. The annual cost for renting the bees is about $300 million, but the California almond economy is worth around $11 billion.

Colony Collapse Disorder and the Plight of Domestic Honey Bees

However, bee colonies are dying in large numbers. According to the June 2019 Bee Informed Partnership's survey, “U.S. beekeepers lost nearly 40% of their honeybee colonies last winter — the greatest reported winter hive loss since the partnership started its surveys 13 years ago. The total annual loss was slightly above average.”

According to the survey, there are multiple causes for what has been called “colony collapse disorder.” Those causes include the Varroa destructor mite, decreasing crop diversity, poor beekeeping practices, loss of habitat, the use of certain pesticides on plants and stress.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), colony collapse disorder (CCD) occurs when most of the worker bees in a hive disappear for any of several reasons. That leaves the queen with plenty of food for the unhatched bees, but only a few bees to take care of them.

Since hives cannot sustain themselves without worker bees, the entire colony dies. CCD occurrences have diminished considerably since the winter of 2006-2007 when beekeepers reported losses of 30 to 90 percent of their hives. Nevertheless, the EPA states CCD remains a concern, and scientists are working on several theories for the phenomenon:

Honey bees are being attacked by the small invasive Varroa destructor mites that can destroy an entire colony. Since the introduction of the Varroa destructor in Florida in the mid-1980s, they had spread northward to almost every state by 2017. A study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) stated that the “Varroa destructor is the greatest single driver of the global honey bee health decline.”

The use of pesticides is also a concern. The EPA took steps in 2016 to limit the use of sulfoxafor, an insecticide that is highly toxic to bees and other pollination insects. However, just last month the EPA removed many of the restrictions on the use of sulfoxafor.

Farmers can now use the insecticide on about 190 million acres of arable land, nearly twice the size of California. The crops that can be sprayed with sulfoxaor include soybeans, cotton, alfalfa, millet, oats, pineapple, sorghum, tree plantations, citrus, squash and strawberries.

According to an article in Mother Jones, the transportation of honey bees around the nation, their attacks by parasites, the use of insecticides and the vast number of single-crop areas needing pollination are causing stress to the honey bee.

Just as data continue to show the decline of domestic honey bees, the USDA, citing budgetary shortfalls, announced in July that it would no longer fund its National Agriculture Statistics Service to collect data on honey bee colonies. The report helped scientists and farmers determine if honey bee populations were declining and by how much.

Honey Bees and Our Food and Agriculture Sector

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), under Presidential Policy Directive 21, is responsible for ensuring that our critical infrastructure “must be secure and able to withstand and rapidly recover from all hazards.”

In the 2015 Food and Agriculture Sector-Specific Plan, facilities primary engaged in raising insects, such as bees, fall under DHS purview in the animal production category. A decrease in the number of domestic honey bees can be costly not only for farmers to “rent” them, but also for all Americans because the loss of bees could lead to steeper food prices.

Our nation’s honey bees are not thought of as a target of violent extremists or terrorists. Nevertheless, individuals are attacking them in their hives. In April, someone deliberately set fire to a large number of beehives in Alvin, Texas, just south of Houston. Each hive contained around 30,000 bees. The destruction of the hives resulted in the loss of 500,000 to 600,000 bees.

In January 2018, outside Prunedale, California, over 100 beehives were destroyed when someone knocked over the hives and then sprayed gasoline on them, killing over 200,000 bees. On December 28, 2017, 50 beehives outside Sioux City, Iowa, were destroyed, resulting in approximately 500,000 dead, frozen bees.

DHS needs to recognize the importance and criticality of our nation’s bees and the role they play as a primary contributor to our ecosystem. An attack against bees is an attack against Americans’ wellbeing in general.

Due to our nation’s extreme dependence on honey bees, action is needed to ensure we have enough bees to sustain our crops. There are several steps that we can take to ensure our bee population is not decimated:

  • Ban the use of pesticides that are harmful to bees is a main step

  • Providing shallow sources of water and providing the bees with plenty of bee-friendly flowers, plants and trees

  • Allow leafy vegetables to go to seed after harvest

  • Support local beekeepers by buying their honey

  • Teach children about the importance of bees and the interdependence of living animals

About the Author 

Dr. Brian Blodgett is an alumnus of American Military University who graduated in 2000 with a master of arts in military studies and a concentration in land warfare. He retired from the U.S. Army in 2006 as a Chief Warrant Officer after serving over 20 years, first as an infantryman and then as an intelligence analyst. He is a 2003 graduate of the Joint Military Intelligence College where he earned a master of science in strategic intelligence with a concentration in South Asia. He graduated from Northcentral University in 2008, earning a doctorate in philosophy in business administration with a specialization in homeland security.

Dr. Blodgett has been a part-time faculty member, a full-time faculty member and a program director. He is currently a full-time faculty member in the School of Security and Global Studies and teaches homeland security and security management courses.

https://edmdigest.com/resources/education/honey-bees-critical-agriculture-system/?utm_source=inhomelandsecurity&utm_medium=blog&utm_content=IHS-article-link&utm_campaign=Blog%20-%20In%20Homeland%20Security%20-%20BT%20-%20AMU

EPA, Protect Bees From Pesticides

Pesticide Action Network      TAKE ACTION


After many years, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is finally taking a closer look at how neonicotinoid pesticides impact bees and other pollinators.  In the first of four assessments the agency has promised this year, it was clear they are still missing the forest for the trees. 

EPA’s initial findings on Bayer’s imidacloprid skipped over both the impacts of pesticide exposures over time, and the effects of multiple pesticides in combination. 

They also ignored the critical issue of neonic seed coatings, the most widespread use of these bee-harming pesticides. As we know from many studies, seed coatings are a primary source of exposure for bees and other pollinators. 

Join us in keeping the pressure on EPA to address these issues — and take meaningful action to protect bees from harmful pesticides.

TAKE ACTION: http://www.panna.org/take-action/epa-protect-bees-pesticides?utm_source=groundtruth&utm_medium=alert&utm_campaign=gt-06-24

 

EPA-Registered Pesticide Products Approved for Use Against Varroa Mites in Bee Hives

EPA (Environmental Protection Agency)  January 2016

As part of the National Pollinator Health Strategy, EPA committed to helping beekeepers combat Varroa mites. Varroa mites are parasites that feed on developing bees, leading to brood mortality and reduced lifespan of worker bees. They also transmit numerous honeybee viruses. The health of a colony can be critically damaged by an infestation of Varroa mites. Once infested, if left untreated, the colony will likely die. By expediting the approval of pesticides that target Varroamites and publishing information about the products, EPA is honoring another commitment in the National Strategy.

The pesticide products listed on this page are registered by EPA at the federal level for use against Varroa mites. Rotating products to combat Varroa mites is an important tactic to prevent resistance development and to maintain the usefulness of individual pesticides. Beekeepers are encouraged to check with their state pesticide regulatory agencies to determine the regulatory status of the products in the individual states.

Primary registered products in the list have 2-part EPA registration numbers and are listed in bold. Distributor products have a 3-part EPA registration number, with the first two numbers reflecting the primary registered product’s registration number. Distributors may market their products under different names, but the formulations and uses are identical to the primary registered.

Registration #Product NameActive Ingredient
2724-406 ZOECON RF-318 APISTAN STRIP Fluvalinate (10.25%)
2724-406-62042 APISTAN ANTI-VARROA MITE STRIPS  
61671-3 FOR-MITE Formic acid (65.9%)
70950-2 AVACHEM SUCROSE OCTANOATE [40.0%] Sucrose octanoate (40%)
70950-2-2205 SUCROCIDE  
70950-2-84710 SUCRASHIELD  
73291-1 API LIFE VAR  Thymol (74.09%), Oil of eucalyptus (16%), Menthol (3.73%)
75710-2 MITE-AWAY QUICK STRIPS  Formic acid (46.7%)
79671-1 APIGUARD Thymol (25%)
83623-2 HOPGUARD II Hop beta acids resin (16%)
87243-1 Apivar Amitraz (3.33%)
91266-1 OXALIC ACID DIHYDRATE Oxalic acid (100%)
91266-1-73291 OXALIC ACID DIHYDRATE  
91266-1-91832 OXALIC ACID DIHYDRATE  
11556-138 CHECKMITE+ BEE HIVE PEST CONTROL STRIP Coumaphos (10%)
11556-138-61671 CHECKMITE+ BEE HIVE PEST CONTROL STRIP  

EPA Must Assess the Indiscriminate Pollinator Poisoning Caused by Neonicotinoids Imparted to Plants from Seeds, Lawsuit Charges

Beyond Pesticides     January 8, 2016

This week the Center for Food Safety, on behalf of several beekeepers, farmers and sustainable agriculture and conservation groups, filed a lawsuit in federal court on Wednesday charging the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with a failure to adequately regulate neonicotinoid insecticide seed coatings used on dozens of crops throughout the U.S. The suit alleges that EPA has illegally allowed millions of pounds of coated seeds to be planted annually on more than 150 million acres nationwide, constituting a direct violation of the registration requirements established by the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). Absent adequate assessment of the serious ongoing environmental harms associated with coated seed use, as well as failure to require the registration of coated seeds and enforceable labels on seeds bags, this lawsuit demands immediate action to protect beekeepers, farmers and consumers from the harms associated with neonicotinoid coated seeds.

Seed TechnologyNeonicotinoids are a class of insecticides that share a common mode of action that affects the central nervous system of insects, resulting in disorientation, paralysis and death. Neonicotinoid pesticides are tied to recent pollinator declines by an ever-growing body of science. Just this week EPA released a preliminary honey bee risk assessment linking severely declining honeybee populations to the use of the neonicotinoidimidacloprid, which, along with clothianidin andthiamethoxam, is commonly used to coat agricultural seeds. This raises huge concerns because neonicotinoids are persistent in the environment, and when used as seed treatments (as well as drench treatments), translocate throughout the plant (thus are systemic), ending up in pollen and nectar and exposing pollinators like bees, birds, and butterflies long after the planting season has ended.

Not only are neonicotinoid coated seeds harmful to pollinators, they also offer little economic value to farmers. In 2014, EPA released a memorandum concluding that soybean seeds treated with neonicotinoid insecticides provide little or no overall benefits in controlling insects or improving yield or quality in chemical-intensive soybean production. The memo states, “In studies that included a comparison to foliar insecticides, there were no instances where neonicotinoid seed treatments out-performed any foliar insecticide in yield protection from any pest.” A report by Center for Food Safety that same year assembled the scientific literature that refutes claims that neonicotinoids bring greater benefits than costs to farmers. In the report, researchers analyzed independent, peer-reviewed, scientific literature and found that the benefits of prophylactic neonicotinoid use via seed treatments are nearly non-existent, and that any minor benefits that did occur were negated due to honey bee colony impacts, reduced crop pollination by honey bees, reduced production of honey and other bee products, loss of ecosystem services, and market damage from contamination events. Furthermore, preliminary reports out of the UK find that the country is poised to harvest higher than expected yields of canola in its first neonicotinoid-free growing season since the European moratorium on neonicotinoids went into place in 2013.

The lawsuit seeks to challenge EPA’s reliance on FIFRA’s “treated article exemption,” which, to this point, has been used to allow the pesticide industry to circumvent proper registration and review of neonicotinoid coated seeds. The treated article exemption exempts from regulation “an article or substance treated with, or containing a pesticide to protect the article or substance itself, if the pesticide is registered for such use.” 40 CFR § 152.25. Plaintiffs argue that, due to the systemic nature of neonicotinoids, coated seeds are “pesticide” products under FIFRA and require review by EPA. The lawsuit claims that neonicotinoid coatings are not merely intended to protect the seed before germination, but instead designed to carry the active ingredients via the plants’ circulatory system into every living tissue of the plant, thereby imparting the pest injuring (or pesticide) capability to the plant. In doing so, the lawsuit states, the treated article exemption does not apply to the coated seeds. Plaintiffs allege that exempting coated seeds from FIFRA registration is an ultra vires (beyond legal authority) use of agency power, and that failure to regulate and enforce against this pesticide use under FIFRA is unlawful and a violation of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA).

The plaintiffs in the case are beekeepers Jeff Anderson, Bret Adee, David Hackenberg, and Pollinator Stewardship Council, farmers Lucas Criswell and Gail Fuller, and public interest and conservation groups American Bird Conservancy, Center for Food Safety and Pesticide Action Network of North America

Efforts to stop the harm that neonicotinoids are causing are ongoing on many fronts. Across the nation, jurisdictions, like Boulder and Lafayette, Colorado, have been banning or limiting neonicotinoids. Last year, Ontario, Canada proposed a plan to reduce the use of neonic-coated corn and soybean seeds by 80%. In 2013, the European Union issued a 2-year moratorium banning neonics. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced a ban on neonicotinoid insecticides at all wildlife refuges nationwide by this January. For more information on pollinators and pesticides, see Beyond Pesticides’ BeeProtective page.

The Saving America’s Pollinator’s Act remains an avenue for Congress to address the pollinator crisis. Contact your U.S. Representative and ask them to support this important legislation today. You can also get active in your community to protect bees by advocating for policies that restrict their use. Montgomery County, Maryland recently restricted the use of a wide range of pesticides, including neonics, on public and private property. Sign here if you’d like to see your community do the same!

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: CFS press release

Read at: http://beyondpesticides.org/dailynewsblog/2016/01/epa-must-assess-the-indiscriminate-pollinator-poisoning-caused-by-neonicotinoids-imparted-to-plants-from-seeds-lawsuit-charges/

Beekeeper, Farmers, and Public Interest Groups Sue EPA over Failed Oversight of Neonicotinoid-coated Seeds

Center for Food Safety    Press Release    January 6, 2016

Widespread and unregulated use of insecticide threatens bees, birds,
livelihoods and ecosystems

WASHINGTON, DC —Center for Food Safety, on behalf of several beekeepers, farmers and sustainable agriculture and conservation groups, filed a lawsuit today challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) inadequate regulation of the neonicotinoid insecticide seed coatings used on dozens of crops. EPA has allowed millions of pounds of coated seeds to be planted annually on more than 150 million acres nationwide. The lawsuit alleges the agency has illegally allowed this to occur, without requiring the coated seeds to be registered under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), without enforceable labels on the seed bags, and without adequate assessments of the serious ongoing environmental harm. 

“EPA’s actions surrounding neonicotinoid seed coatings have led to intensifying and destructive consequences. These include acute honey bee kills, as well as chronic effects to numerous species, nationwide water and soil contamination, and other environmental and economic harms,” said Peter Jenkins, attorney with Center for Food Safety. “This lawsuit aims to hold EPA accountable to dramatically reduce this harm in the future.” 

Neonicotinoids are a class of insecticides known to have acute and chronic effects on honey bees and other pollinator species and are considered a major factor in overall bee population declines and poor health. Up to 95 percent of the applied seed coating ends up in the surrounding air, soil and water rather than in the crop for which it was intended, leading to extensive contamination. 

“My honey farm business is not capable of surviving another three to five years if EPA chooses to 'drag out' the treated article exemption in the courts at the request of the pesticide industry instead of properly regulating these pesticides. People need pollinated food; somebody must stand up and say no to unregulated killing of pollinators,” said Jeff Anderson, beekeeper and the lead plaintiff in the case. 

“After experiencing a large loss of bees this spring due to corn planting ‘dust off,’ I believe that it is of critical importance that this defective product not be used as a prophylactic seed treatment,” said Bret Adee, owner of the largest commercial beekeeping operation in the country.

“As a beekeeper for over 50 years, I have lost more colonies of honey bees in the last ten years from the after effects of neonic seed coatings than all others causes over the first 40 plus years of my beekeeping operation,” said beekeeper David Hackenberg. “This not only affects my honey bees, but as a farmer it also affects my land and the health of my soil. It is time for EPA to accept the responsibility to protect not only our honey bees and other pollinators, but also our soil and our environment.” 

“Farmers rely on the crop pollination services of beekeepers to increase the yield of their crops. Farmers need clear, concise pesticide label guidelines in order to protect their crops and protect honey bees. Healthy relationships between soil and water, beekeepers and farmers, and beneficial insects and crops are essential to an affordable and sustainable food supply,” said Michele Colopy, program director at the Pollinator Stewardship Council, Inc. 

The cost-effectiveness of neonicotinoid seed coatings has been challenged in recent years, with numerous studies indicating that their near ubiquitous use is unnecessary — and making EPA’s disregard of their risks all the more harmful. Along with honey bees, wild bees and other beneficial insects are in serious decline, leading to reduced yields. Overuse of the insecticides threatens sustainable agriculture going forward. 

“I began to question the value of neonicotinoids after some side-by-side comparisons showed little if any yield advantage. Shortly after this I began to hear of the possible connection between neonicotinoids and their detriment to honey bees, and I stopped using them altogether,” said Kansas grain farmer Gail Fuller of Fuller Farms. 

“A single seed coated with a neonicotinoid insecticide is enough to kill a songbird.  There is no justification for EPA to exempt these pesticide delivery devices from regulation. American Bird Conservancy urges the agency to evaluate the risks to birds, bees, butterflies, and other wildlife,” said Cynthia Palmer, director of pesticides science and regulation at American Bird Conservancy.

"EPA can't bury its head in the sand any longer. Seed coatings are just the latest delivery device of pesticide corporations that pose a threat to pollinators and the food system," said Marcia Ishii- Eiteman, senior scientist at Pesticide Action Network. "Given widespread use and persistence of these bee-harming pesticides, it's time for EPA to fully and swiftly evaluate the impacts of seed coatings — and prevent future harm.”

EPA has also allowed several other similar systemic seed-coating insecticides onto the market and appears poised to approve additional coating products in the near future.

The plaintiffs in the case are beekeepers Jeff Anderson, Bret Adee, David Hackenberg, and Pollinator Stewardship Council, farmers Lucas Criswell and Gail Fuller, and public interest and conservation groups American Bird Conservancy, Center for Food Safety and Pesticide Action Network of North America.

Read at: http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/issues/304/pollinators-and-pesticides/press-releases/4197/beekeeper-farmers-and-public-interest-groups-sue-epa-over-failed-oversight-of-neonicotinoid-coated-seeds#

Bees Threatened By A Common Pesticide, EPA Finds

Los Angeles Times    By Geoffrey Mohan   January 6, 2016

A queen bee is seen in the center of a hive. (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said Wednesday that imidacloprid, a nicotine-imitating chemical found in at least 188 farm and household products in California, “potentially poses risk to hives when the pesticide comes in contact with certain crops that attract pollinators.”

The EPA's decision was prompted by increasing concern that the chemicals might be contributing to the sudden collapse of commercial honey bee colonies over the last decade. Those bees pollinate crucial food crops and contribute about $14 billion in value to the agricultural economy nationwide.

This is the first of four risk assessments conducted by the EPA on the class of pesticides known as neonicotinoids. The rest are slated for completion by the end of the year, after which the agency could tighten controls over the insecticides.

“Clearly, as a result of this, there might be more restrictions coming,” said Charlotte Fadipe, spokeswoman for the California Department of Pesticide Regulation.

California's almond crop, valued at about $7 billion, is completely dependent on nearly 1 million commercial hives brought in to pollinate about 870,000 acres of trees. Other crops that depend strongly on commercial honeybee colonies include oranges and grapefruits, blueberries, cherries, alfalfa, apples, avocados, cucumbers, onions, cantaloupe, cranberries, pumpkins and sunflowers.

The single biggest user, however, was the predominantly urban structural pest control industry, which applied nearly 37 tons, according to the agency.

Several studies have linked high levels of neonicotinoids to decreased foraging, failures of queen bees, breakdowns in hive communication and other colony-threatening phenomena. Last year, however, a study suggested that exposure to levels of the pesticide expected on most farms would pose no significant negative effects on bee colonies.

Many factors have been blamed for the bee die-offs: exposure to multiple pesticides, poor hive management practices and natural pathogens such as mites and viruses. Although full-scale colony collapses have largely abated over the last several years, bees are continuing to die at a higher-than-normal rate. The USDA last year reported winter colony losses of about 23%, based on a survey of beekeepers. A winter decline of about 19% is considered normal.

The EPA and its research partners weighed evidence from several hundred scientific studies before concluding that chemical traces of more than 25 parts per billion on plants probably will harm bees.

Last year, the agency halted approval of any new outdoor uses of neonicotinoid pesticides until it completes a full risk assessment. It also has proposed banning use of any pesticide found to be toxic to bees while crops are in bloom and commercial colonies are present.

Bayer CropScience said the EPA's assessment “appears to overestimate the potential for harmful exposures in certain crops, such as citrus and cotton, while ignoring the important benefits these products provide and management practices to protect bees.”

The company added that it hoped the agency further considers “the best available science, as well as a proper understanding of modern pest management practices.”

Pesticide industry advocates said it was premature to talk about a ban on the chemical.

“I think there's a lot more work to be done, but we're pretty confident that the product is ultimately going to be found safe either as registered or with potentially any mitigation measures that need to be added,” said Renee Pinel, president of the Western Plant Health Assn. in Sacramento.

The Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental advocacy group, chided EPA for not broadening its investigation beyond the honey bee, to the more than 4,000 wild bee species, and to other pollinators, including butterflies and bats.

“You can't claim to do a ‘pollinator risk assessment' and really only look at one pollinator, the honeybee,” said Lori Ann Burd, environmental health director of the group. “That's not only cheating on the purpose of this work but also cheating the native bees, birds, butterflies and other species threatened by this pesticide.”

Two other groups, the Center for Food Safety and the Pesticide Action Network, filed a lawsuit Wednesday against EPA, seeking tighter regulation of seeds coated in neonicotinoids.

Jeff Anderson, a Minnesota beekeeper and plaintiff in the suit, said EPA “didn't say anything of substance” and did not commit to changing any regulations on neonicotinoids.

Anderson rents hives to California almond growers, then to growers of cherries, apples and blueberries, before bringing them back to Minnesota for honey production in the late spring and summer. There, he has lost as much as 50% of his 3,000 bees, at a time when coated seeds are planted and cultivated.

Dust from the seeds can spread the pesticide, which also is taken up into the plant, and can be detected in its nectar and pollen, said Scott Black, executive director of the Xerces Society, which pushes for conservation of insects.

“You really can't look at total risk to pollinators without looking at seed coating, and you really can't look at total risk to pollinators without looking at the 4,000 or so other species,” Black said.

http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-pesticide-bees-20160106-story.html

EPA Releases the First of Four Preliminary Risk Assessments for Insecticides Potentially Harmful to Bees

January 6, 2016
First-of-its-kind assessment delivers on President Obama’s
National Pollinator Strategy

WASHINGTON-- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a preliminary pollinator risk assessment for the neonicotinoid insecticide, imidacloprid, which shows a threat to some pollinators. EPA’s assessment, prepared in collaboration with California’s Department of Pesticide Regulation, indicates that imidacloprid potentially poses risk to hives when the pesticide comes in contact with certain crops that attract pollinators.

“Delivering on the President’s National Pollinator Strategy means EPA is committed not only to protecting bees and reversing bee loss, but for the first time assessing the health of the colony for the neonicotinoid pesticides,” said Jim Jones, Assistant Administrator of the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. “Using science as our guide, this preliminary assessment reflects our collaboration with the State of California and Canada to assess the results of the most recent testing required by EPA.” 

The preliminary risk assessment identified a residue level for imidacloprid of 25 ppb, which sets a threshold above which effects on pollinator hives are likely to be seen, and at that level and below which effects are unlikely. These effects include decreases in pollinators as well as less honey produced. .  

For example, data show that citrus and cotton may have residues of the pesticide in pollen and nectar above the threshold level. Other crops such as corn and leafy vegetables either do not produce nectar or have residues below the EPA identified level. Additional data is being generated on these and other crops to help EPA evaluate whether imidacloprid poses a risk to hives. 

The imidacloprid assessment is the first of four preliminary pollinator risk assessments for the neonicotinoid insecticides. Preliminary pollinator risk assessments for three other neonicotinoids, clothianidin, thiamethoxam, and dinotefuran, are scheduled to be released for public comment in December 2016. 

A preliminary risk assessment of all ecological effects for imidacloprid, including a revised pollinator assessment and impacts on other species such as aquatic and terrestrial animals and plants will also be released in December 2016.

In addition to working with California, EPA coordinated efforts with Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency. Canada’s Imidacloprid pollinator-only assessment – also released today – reaches the same preliminary conclusions as EPA’s report.

The 60-day public comment period will begin upon publication in the Federal Register. After the comment period ends, EPA may revise the pollinator assessment based on comments received and, if necessary, take action to reduce risks from the insecticide. 

In 2015, EPA proposed to prohibit the use of pesticides that are toxic to bees, including the neonicotinoids, when crops are in bloom and bees are under contract for pollination services.  The Agency temporarily halted the approval of new outdoor neonicotinoid pesticide uses until new bee data is submitted and pollinator risk assessments are complete.

EPA encourages stakeholders and interested members of the public to visit the imidacloprid docket and sign up for email alerts to be automatically notified when the agency opens the public comment period for the pollinator-only risk assessment. The risk assessment and other supporting documents will be available in the docket today at:
http://www.regulations.gov/#!docketBrowser;rpp=25;so=DESC;sb=postedDate;po=0;dct=SR;D=EPA-HQ-OPP-2008-0844.

EPA is also planning to hold a webinar on the imidacloprid assessment in early February.  The times and details will be posted at:  http://www.epa.gov/pollinator-protection/how-we-assess-risks-pollinators


ABJ Extra read at: http://us1.campaign-archive1.com/?u=5fd2b1aa990e63193af2a573d&id=32f0d5d858&e=cb715f1bb5

EPA Misses Key Deadlines For Analyzing Pesticides' Risks To People, Wildlife

CommonDreams     Press Release    December 30, 2015

PORTLAND, Ore. - The Environmental Protection Agency missed its own deadlines for completing risk assessments in 2015 for atrazine, glyphosate and imidacloprid, three highly controversial, toxic and commonly used pesticides. The assessments are crucial to understanding the threats the pesticides pose to animals, people and the environment.

“These risk assessments aren’t just bureaucratic boxes to be checked,” said Lori Ann Burd, environmental health director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Every day that the EPA delays completing these much-needed reviews is a day...

Continue reading: http://www.commondreams.org/newswire/2015/12/30/epa-misses-key-deadlines-analyzing-pesticides-risks-people-wildlife

EPA Calls For Less Ethanol Next Year. Let's Hear It For The EPA!

Bee Culture - Catch The Buzz   December 15, 2015

The US EPA has changed direction on ethanol production for next year. Its ethanol mandate for 2016 requires less use of biofuel, thus a greater demand for fossil fuel. This is probably a good thing for lots of people, but think about this. It puts the EPA, that stands for Environmental Protection Agency, right in bed with big oil. Less ethanol used, more gasoline used. Does that make sense? For 2016, EPA wants 18.1 billion gallons blended into the nations fuel supply. That’s 4.1 billion fewer gallons than last year. First, let’s look at the numbers here. You get 2.8 gallons of ethanol per bushel of corn. The US averaged 168 bushels of corn per acre in 2015. That comes to 471 gallons of ethanol per acre. Taking 4.1 billion gallons of ethanol out of the equation reduces the acres of planted corn next season by 8.7 million acres. That’s just about 10% of the 81.1 million acres of planted corn last year.

Why would EPA want to use more fossil fuel next year? Well, after careful study, The National Academy of Science, the UN and the Environmental Working Group found that corn ethanol may actually have higher emissions than petroleum-based gasoline, which doesn’t even account for the fossil fuels required to raise, harvest and transport all that corn. It’s a better bigger picture.

Plus, there’s all that subsidy money that farmers are getting to raise all that corn. Tens of billions since the 1980s when this all started. About 40 percent of the corn raised in the US goes into ethanol production, causing corn-based grocery foods to cost US taxpayers about $40 billion more than needed a year.

Another plus for this is the reduced use of seed applied pesticides on all those millions of acres. And herbicide, and fungicides. If big ag was smart, they’d use that 8.7 million acres to meet that federal mandate of 9 million acres of increased pollinator forage needed next season. Of course, the land freed up from all that corn would probably be a killing field for all those pollinators because of lingering pesticides left over from years of applications.

From the beekeeping industry’s perspective, that’s a boatload of poison that won’t get into the system, and, perhaps, some of this now-idled land will eventually find its way back to producing something edible, and safe for our bees.

Anyway you look at it, 8.7 million fewer acres of corn next year has got to be a good thing.

http://www.beeculture.com/catch-the-buzz-epa-calls-for-less-ethanol-next-year-lets-hear-it-for-the-epa/

Court Agrees: Sulfoxaflor Registration Based on Flawed and Limited Data

CATCH THE BUZZ - September 15, 2015

The Pollinator Stewardship Council is pleased with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion concerning the registration of sulfoxaflor.  Our argument, presented by Earthjustice attorney, Greg Loarie, addressed our concerns that EPA’s decision process to unconditionally register Sulfoxaflor was based on flawed and limited data, and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with us.

Beekeepers WON!  The registration of a highly toxic pesticide to honey bees has been revoked due to the flawed and limited data collected and reviewed by EPA.

We can protect crops from pests and protect honey bees and native pollinators.  To do this, EPA’s pesticide application and review process must receive substantial scientific evidence as to the benefits of a pesticide, as well as the protection of the environment, especially the protection of pollinators. Sulfoxaflor was “registered” for use on cotton, soybeans, citrus, pome/stone fruits, nuts, grapes, potatoes, vegetables, and strawberries.

“Without sufficient data, the EPA has no real idea whether sulfoxaflor will cause unreasonable adverse effects on bees, as prohibited by FIFRA. Accordingly, the EPA’s decision to register sulfoxaflor was not supported by substantial evidence.” (Pollinator Stewardship Council v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; No. 13-72346, pg. 24, 25; Sept. 10, 2015)

“I am inclined to believe the EPA instead decided to register sulfoxaflor unconditionally in response to public pressure for the product and attempted to support its decision retroactively with studies it had previously found inadequate.  Such action seems capricious.” (Pollinator Stewardship Council v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; No. 13-72346, pg. 33; Sept. 10, 2015)

Read at: http://goo.gl/uNrGqK

Court Rules Pesticide That's Been Found To Harm Bees Is No Longer Approved In The U.S.

Nation of Change   By Katie Valentine   September 13, 2015

 There has been some action on improving the health of bee colonies in the United States. Now a certain pesticide that’s been found to harm bees is no longer approved for use in the United States.A certain pesticide that’s been found to harm bees is no longer approved for use in the United States, after a federal appeals court struck down the Environmental Protection Agency’s authorization of it Thursday.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that the EPA shouldn’t have signed off on Dow AgroSciences’ sulfoxaflor, which is sold under the brand names Transform and Closer, because it didn’t seek necessary, additional tests on it.

“Because the EPA’s decision to unconditionally register sulfoxaflor was based on flawed and limited data, we conclude that the unconditional approval was not supported by substantial evidence,” the court’s opinion reads. “We therefore vacate the EPA’s registration of sulfoxaflor.”

Because existing tests found that the pesticide — which is part of a broad class of insecticides called neonicotinoids — was toxic to bees, letting sulfoxaflor stay approved would have been dangerous for the environment, Circuit Judge Mary Schroeder said.

“In this case, given the precariousness of bee populations, leaving the EPA’s registration of sulfoxaflor in place risks more potential environmental harm than vacating it,” she wrote.

Sulfoxaflor was approved in 2013 for use on a variety of crops, includingcitrus, potatoes, soybeans, and strawberries. But soon after, a group of U.S. beekeepers sued the EPA, calling on it to rescind the registration because of the pesticide’s toxicity to bees and other pollinators. This court decision was in response to the case.

Honeybees have experienced significant declines in recent years. A May survey found that, in total, U.S. beekeepers lost 42 percent of their bees from April 2014 to April 2015. And, for the first time last year, bee colony losses in the summer surpassed losses in winter — something that one bee expert called“extremely troubling.”

Neonicotinoids, like sulfoxaflor, have been pointed to as one of the causes of these bee losses. They’ve been found to damage bees’ brains, and general exposure to pesticides has been found to make bees more susceptible to infection. Honeybee colonies are also susceptible to infestation from varroa mites, a difficult-to-control parasite that latches onto bees and sucks their blood. And a recent study found that Argentine ants pose a danger to bees by infecting them with a deadly virus. Bee experts have said that the impact on pesticides as well as other potential causes of bee decline, such as sub-par nutrition, need to be studied further.

There has been some action on improving the health of bee colonies in the United States. Last year, President Obama signed an executive order that created a “federal strategy” aimed at promoting the health of honeybees and other pollinators. And in February, the USDA invested $3 million into an initiative to boost honeybee numbers.

Earthjustice, the environmental group that represented the group of beekeepers and trade groups involved with the sulfoxaflor case, applauded the court’s decision.

“Our country is facing widespread bee colony collapse, and scientists are pointing to pesticides like sulfoxaflar as the cause,” Greg Loarie, lead counsel on the case, said in a statement. “The court’s decision to overturn approval of this bee-killing pesticide is incredible news for bees, beekeepersand all of us who enjoy the healthy fruits, nuts, and vegetables that rely on bees for pollination.”

Read at: http://www.nationofchange.org/2015/09/13/court-rules-pesticide-thats-been-found-to-harm-bees-is-no-longer-approved-in-the-u-s/

New Rule by EPA Proposed to Protect Honey Bees

Pollinator Stewardship Council    July 10, 2015

EPA released a New Rule for public comment, Bees; Mitigating Exposure from Acutely Toxic Pesticide Products (Docket #: EPA-HQ-OPP-2014-0818-0003; deadline for comments July 29, 2015). The Pollinator Stewardship Council will be submitting our comment to the public docket, and we will be seeking your comments as well in a separate email to you. The New Rule has two parts: Part A. Label Language for Applications to Sites With Bees Present Under Contracted Services, and Part B. State and Tribal Managed Pollinator Protection Plans. (read the text of the Proposed New Rule here)

In summary, honey bees need to be afforded the same protections, whether under contract, or not under contract for pollination services. No matter where the bees are they must be protected from all forms of exposure of acutely toxic pesticides. This proposed New Rule offers no protection from the synergistic effects of tank mixes upon honey bees while under contract, nor does it protect bees under contract from systemic pesticides. The bee kill incidents of the past few years were due to tank mixes including fungicides, yet the pesticide label offers no protection to pollinators from tank mixes of products with fungicides and insect growth regulators. The seventy-six acute toxicity compounds affecting more than 1,000 products are known and labelled as such. It is the tank mixed pesticides with synergized and unknown toxicities that this proposed new rule does not address, and needs to address.

Retaining a pesticide label with exceptions to apply acutely toxic pesticides to honey bees not under contract pollination is unacceptable. Clear pesticide label protection guidelines are integral to protecting pollinators. Without pesticide label language, with defined terminology, pollinators will simply be “removed by mortality.”

Beekeepers should not suffer the loss of their livestock simply because they are not under a crop pollination contract. A soybean farmer would not appreciate a farming practice in corn that killed his soybean crop, or wiped out half of his field. Part “A” of this proposed new rule changes nothing for the beekeepers, and their honey bees concerning exposure to bee toxic pesticides. Part “B” of this proposed rule simply provides federal acknowledgement of the request of States to develop their own Pollinator Protection Plans. However, it provides no funding for apiary inspectors and lab testing of honey bees related to alleged pesticide bee kills, and it permits States to remove honey bees and native pollinators from the ecosystem; by forcing their removal or through the pollinators’ mortality.

EPA’s mission is to protect human health and the environment. This New Rule does not provide protection of honey bees and native pollinators from acutely toxic pesticide products under contracted pollination or not. State Pollinator Protection Plans tasked with effectively reducing the likelihood of bees being present in a treatment area is not protection of pollinators, but elimination of pollinators.

http://pollinatorstewardship.org/

EPA Plans Temporary Pesticide Restrictions While Bees Feed

CATCH THE BUZZ    By Seth Borenstein AP/Science Writer   May 28, 2015

A federal rule to be proposed Thursday would create temporary pesticide-free zones when certain plants are in bloom around bees that are trucked from farm to farm by professional beekeepers, which are the majority of honeybees in the U.S. The pesticide halt would only happen during the time the flower is in bloom and the bees are there, and only on the property where the bees are working, not neighboring land.

The rule applies to virtually all insecticides, more than 1,000 products involving...

Read more... http://goo.gl/cBKmbg

Honey Bee Health Hits Congress, EPA, and the White House. You'd Think Something Would Get Done, Wouldn't You?

Catch the Buzz      By Alan Harman   May 14, 2015
 
The rental fees honey producers charge for pollination services in the U.S. continues to rise due to increasing demand.

U.S. Department of Agriculture acting chief economist Robert Johansson tells a House of Representatives hearing that the average rental rate per hive doubled between 2005 and 2009 to more than $150.

“In 2012 the fees charged for honeybee pollination services exceeded $650 million,” Johansson tells the U.S. House agriculture sub-committee on biotechnology, horticulture and research.

U.S. honey producers are responding to higher honey prices, he says.

"The number of producing colonies and average production per colony grew from 2.6 million colonies producing 57 pounds per year in 2013 to 2.7 million colonies at 65 pounds per colony of production in 2014.”

But he says there is still plenty of room for growth – in 1993, there were more than three million colonies at 73 pounds of production per colony.

Subcommittee chairman Rodney Davis (R-IL) called the public hearing to review the federal coordination and response regarding pollinator health.

“Pollinators are essential in crop pollination, however, as the issue becomes increasingly politicized, there is growing disconnect between scientific facts and public perception of the role pesticides play in pollinator health,” Davis says.

"Federal coordination and communication is vital in establishing rules and regulations impacting pollinator health and farmers’ abilities to produce food. It is essential that agencies work together to promote their health without overburdening farmers and politicizing the issue.”

Agriculture Committee Chairman K. Michael Conaway (R-TX) says agriculture policies must be based on sound science and include input from the agriculture community.

“What we do in Washington, and how agencies work with each other, directly affects farmers and ranchers’ ability to do their jobs,” he said.

Davis said that despite the overwhelming consensus within the scientific community regarding the relative importance of the various factors contributing to overall pollinator health, the factor near the bottom of the scientific community’s list seems to be the factor highest on the list of activist groups.

Pesticides and in particular those known as neonics were attracting the lion share of media and public interest attention.

Davis said neonics are highly effective and have seen a very rapid adoption rate among producers because of the significant benefits they offer.

“It is frustrating that efforts to innovate and employ new, proven technologies to enhance our ability to produce food, feed and fiber are constantly under attack,” he said.

He noted the an Executive Memorandum from President Barack Obama established a White House Task force to review pollinator health that was supposed to release its findings by the end of last year has still not reported,.

The order also directed the various departments and agencies assigned to the task force to work together to develop a National Pollinator Health Strategy, but Davis says this is not happening – agencies continue to take unilateral action without consultations.

Johansson said the USDA collaborates with the Environmental Protection Agency on a number of key issues, such as on the Federal Pollinator Health Task Force.

“Through cooperation on environmental issues affecting agriculture and rural communities, the EPA and the USDA have developed strong working relationships,” he said.

James Jones, assistant administrator of EPA’s office of chemical safety and pollution prevention, told the sub-committee that pollinator protection is an extremely high priority for the EPA.

“Over the past several years we have taken many steps to develop scientifically sound analytical techniques for assessing the potential impacts of pesticides on pollinators and have acted, based upon this science, to reduce those exposures determined to be of most significant risk,” Jones said.


“As the science continues to advance, through the registration and registration review programs, the agency will continue to work with stakeholders to put in place any additional mitigation strategies to continue to protect pollinators.”


He said the strategy developed by Pollinator Health Task Force co-chaired by the USDA and the EPA will be released in the “very near future” and is the result of a strong interagency collaboration with a focus of improving pollinator health and increasing pollinator habitat.


"Mitigating the effects of pesticides on bees, many of which are intended to kill insects, is a difficult task but is also a priority for the federal government, as both bee pollination and insect control are essential to the success of agriculture,” Jones said.


The EPA has focused its pollinator efforts in three primary areas – advancing the science and understanding of the potential impact of pesticides on pollinators; taking appropriate risk management actions, based upon the available science; and collaborating with domestic and international partners to advance pollinator protection.

Jones told the hearing that collaboration with domestic and international partners to advance pollinator protection is critical.

Over the past three years, the EPA has co-hosted pollinator summits on several topics, including seed treatments, honey bee health, Varroa mites, and forage and nutrition.


In addition, through its Pesticide Program Dialogue Committee, the EPA sought advice on how to improve pesticide labeling, increase methods for reporting bee kill incidents, expand the availability of best management practices for reducing pollinator exposure to pesticides, and develop a consistent approach for investigating bee kill incidents.


“In response to the advice received, the EPA has greatly improved pesticide labels for the neonicotinoids and has imposed similar labeling requirements for other pesticides that are acutely toxic to bees,” Jones said.


“We have expanded the various methods that bee kill incidents can be reported, both via the EPA’s website and other mechanisms, and we worked with states to develop a more consistent approach and guidance for investigating bee kill incidents.’


EPA has also worked with stakeholders and land grant universities to make more publically available information on best management practices for reducing pesticide exposures to bees.


“In the near future, as part of the roll out of the Pollinator Health Strategy, the EPA will soon announce additional initiatives for continuing to improve pollinator health,” Jones said.


“We will take those actions based upon the best available science and utilizing our longstanding principles of public engagement and transparency.


“The EPA we will also continue to work with the USDA and other federal and state agencies to protect pollinators while also ensuring that growers can meet their pest control needs in order to maintain a diverse ecosystem and provide for a healthy and abundant United States food supply.”

60 Members of Congress Urge EPA to Protect Pollinators

ClimateProgress   By Katie Valentine  October 1, 2014

Sixty members of the House of Representatives want the Environmental Protection Agency to get serious about protecting pollinators.

On Tuesday, the lawmakers sent a letter to EPA Head Gina McCarthy urging her agency to consider banning or restricting the use of neonicotinoid pesticides on crops, due to scientific evidence that these pesticides have adverse effects on bees, butterflies and birds. The letter notes that the Fish and Wildlife Service recently announced that it planned to phase out neonic use in National Wildlife Refuges by 2016, due to to the pesticides’ ability to potentially affect “a broad spectrum” of species in the refuges. 

“We encourage you to follow the lead of FWS and respond to this troubling situation swiftly and effectively,” the lawmakers write in their letter.

Besides a call to restrict use of neonics on crops, the letter contains multiple policy recommendations for the EPA, including a request that the agency consider impacts on the more than 40 pollinator species listed as threatened or endangered by the federal government before registering new neonic pesticides. The lawmakers also say the EPA should restrict use of neonics in commercial pesticides, which can be applied by anyone, regardless of whether they have a pesticide licence or not.

“Protecting our pollinators is essential to the health and future of our environment and our species,” Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), who was a signatory on the letter, said in a statement. “I’m going to keep hammering away on this issue until we can ensure that the products we are using in our backyards and on our farms are not killing pollinators.”

The letter highlighted an order signed this summer by President Obama, which created a national task force on pollinator health and also charged the EPA with assessing the impact pesticides have on pollinator health. As the EPA begins to comply with this directive, the letter states, it should bear in mind that recent research from the International Union for Conservation of Nature that found that pesticides like neonics are accumulating in soil and polluting waterways, and separate research that’s documented the steep decline in many species of pollinators.

One 2013 study found that three species of bumblebees experienced a “rapid and recent population collapse” from 1872 to 2011, and another study from 2011 found that four bumblebee species in the U.S. have “declined substantially” over the last 20 to 30 years. Butterflies, too, are under pressure: Monarch populations have declined by 90 percent over the last two decades, mostly as a result of deforestation, removal of the milkweed on which the butterflies depend and changing weather patterns.

Managed honeybees have also experienced major declines over the last few years, losses that have gotten widespread attention due to honeybees’ role as key pollinators of many U.S. crops. One of the main drivers of these losses, as the lawmakers’ letter conveys, is neonic pesticides, which have been linked to bee die-offs and other adverse health effects by at least 30 scientific studies.

The U.S. has stopped short of implementing a ban on neonics like the one the EU announced last year, but it is paying increasing attention to pollinator health. In February, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced it was investing $3 million into a program that aims to boost bee numbers by paying farmers in five Midwestern states to make bee-friendly farming decisions like reseeding their fields with bee-friendly cover crops like clover and alfalfa. The USDA has also partnered with the Apiary Inspectors of America and the Bee Informed Partnership to survey winter honey bee colony losses.

In the eyes of the 60 lawmakers, though, the EPA is one agency that still needs to step up to address pollinator health.

“I urge Administrator McCarthy to take immediate action to address the neonicotinoid danger,” John Conyers (D-MI), another signatory of the letter, said in a statement. “The health of these bees and butterflies is essential to the health of our own human species. This is about more than environmental stewardship — it’s about humanity’s food supply.”

EPA is Advancing Pollinator Science and Sharing Useful Information with Growers and Beekeepers

The following is brought to us by the American Bee Journal   June 20, 2014

On June 20, 2014, President Obama issued a directive to federal agencies to create a federal strategy to promote honey bee and other pollinator health.  The President’s directive created a Pollinator Health Task Force, co-chaired by EPA and USDA, and charged federal agencies with expanding federal efforts and taking new steps to reverse pollinator losses.  Scientists believe that honey bee losses are likely caused by multiple stressors, including poor bee nutrition, loss of forage lands, parasites, pathogens, and pesticides.  EPA will address the role of pesticides and take action, as appropriate, to protect pollinators. Read President Obama's directive.

Two important tools are being released today as part of EPA’s ongoing actions to protect pollinators. These and other EPA pollinator protection efforts complement those of the USDA, the lead federal agency tasked with identifying and mitigating the causes of U.S. honey bee decline.

EPA's New Pollinator Risk Assessment Guidance:  EPA has posted its new Pollinator Risk Assessment Guidance online. The guidance is part of a long-term strategy to advance the science of assessing the risks posed by pesticides to bees, giving risk managers the means to further improve pollinator protection in our regulatory decisions. Among other things, EPA anticipates the guidance will allow the agency to assess effects from systemic pesticides quantitatively on individual bees as well as on bee colonies. The guidance, developed in cooperation with the California Department of Pesticide Regulation and Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory agency, builds upon our ongoing efforts to advance the science of pollinator risk assessment.

We are already implementing elements of the guidance in our ongoing registration review of neonicotinoid pesticides as well as in our other pesticide regulatory work. The agency is currently reviewing new data we required of the registrants, including refined semi-field studies under more real-world application conditions. Other data from ongoing full-field studies will take up to several years to complete.

RT25 Data Now Online:  At the request of beekeepers and growers alike, the agency has also posted our Residual Time to 25% Bee Mortality (RT25) Data online. Bees may be susceptible to harm from direct exposure to pesticides sprayed on flowering plants, but pesticide residues generally decrease in toxicity as the spray dries and time passes. Farmers and beekeepers can use EPA's RT25 data to gauge the amount of time after application that a particular pesticide product remains toxic enough under real-world conditions to kill 25 percent of bees that are exposed to residues on treated plant surfaces. Some have used this information to select pesticide products with shorter periods in which the chemicals remain active and can affect bees.

 Read at: http://us1.campaign-archive1.com/?u=5fd2b1aa990e63193af2a573d&id=aaf778205c&e=cb715f1bb5

Subscribe to the American Bee Journal and sign up for ABJ Extra

The Trouble with Beekeeping in the Anthropocene

Time.science  By  @bryanrwalsh  8/9/13

The beepocalypse is on the cover of TIME, but it looks like managed honeybees will still pull through. Wild bees—and wild species in general—won't be so lucky in a human-dominated planet


I’ve written this week’s cover story for the magazine, on the growing threat to honeybees. You can read it (with a subscription) over here. The short version: beginning nearly a decade ago, honeybees started dying off at unusually and mysteriously high rates—this past winter, nearly one-third of U.S. honeybee colonies died or disappeared. At first this appeared due to something called colony collapse disorder (CCD); hives would be abandoned without warning, with bees seemingly leaving honey and intact wax behind. The apocalyptic nature of CCD—some people really thought the disappearance of the bees indicated that the Rapture was nigh—grabbed the public’s attention. More recently, beekeepers have been seeing fewer cases of CCD proper, but honeybees keep dying and bees keep collapsing. That’s bad for our food system—bees add at least $15 billion in crop value through pollination in the U.S. alone, and if colony losses keep up, those pollination demands may not be met and valuable crops like almonds could wither.

More than the bottom line for grocery stores, though, the honeybee’s plight alarms us because a species that we have tended and depended on for thousands of years is dying—and we don’t really know why. Tom Theobald, a beekeeper and blogger who has raised the alarm about CCD, put that fear this way: “The bees are just the beginning.” 

But while we don’t now we exactly what causes CCD or why honeybees are dying in larger numbers, we do know the suspects: pesticides, including the newer class of neonicotinoids that seem to affect bees even at very low levels; biological threats like the vampiric Varroa mite; and the lack of nutrition thanks to monocultures of commodity crops like wheat and corn, which offer honeybees little in the way of the pollen they need to survive. Most likely, bee deaths are due to a mix of all of those menaces acting together—pesticides and lack of food might weaken honeybees, and pests like Varroa could finish them off, spreading diseases the bees don’t have the strength to resist. Unfortunately, that means there’s no simple way to save the honeybees either. Simply banning, say, neonicotinoids might take some of the pressure off honeybees, but most scientists agree it wouldn’t solve the problem. (And getting rid of neonicotinoids would have unpredictable consequences for agriculture—the pesticides were adopted in part because they are considered safer for mammals, including human beings.) Honeybees are suffering because we’ve created a world that is increasingly inhospitable to them.

Still, for all the alarm, honeybees are likely to pull through. As I point out in the magazine piece, beekeepers have mostly managed to replace lost colonies, though at a cost high enough that some long-time beekeepers are getting out of the business altogether. Beekeepers are buying new queens and splitting their hives, which cuts into productivity and honey production, but keeps their colony numbers high enough to so far meet pollination demands. They’re adding supplemental feed—often sugar or corn syrup—to compensate for the lack of wild forage. The scientific and agricultural community is engaged—see Monsanto’s recent honeybee summit, and the company’s work on a genetic weapon against the Varroa mite. Randy Oliver, a beekeeper and independent researcher, told me that he could see honeybees becoming a feedlot animal like pigs or chickens, bred and kept for one purpose and having their food brought to them, rather than foraging in the semi-wild way they live now. That sounds alarming—and it’s not something anyone in the beekeeping industry would like to see—but it’s also important to remember that honeybees themselves aren’t exactly natural, especially in North America, where they were imported by European settlers in the 17th century. As Hannah Nordhaus, the author of the great book A Beekeeper’s Lamenthas written, honeybees have always been much more dependent on human beings than the other way around.

The reality is that honeybees are very useful to human beings, and species that are very useful to us—think domesticated animals and pets—tend to do OK in the increasingly human-dominated world we call the Anthropocene. But other wild species aren’t so lucky—and that includes the thousands of species of wild bees and other non-domesticated pollinators. Bumblebees have experienced recent and rapid population loss in the U.S., punctuated by a mass pesticide poisoning in Oregon this past June that led to the deaths of some 50,000 bumblebees. A 2006 report by the National Academies of Science concluded that the populations of many other wild pollinators—especially wild bees—was trending “demonstrably downward.” The threats are much the same ones faced by managed honeybees: pesticides, lack of wild forage, parasites and disease. The difference is that there are thousands of human beings who make it their business to care for and prop up the populations of honeybees. No one is doing the same thing for wild bees. The supposed beepocalypse is on the cover of TIME magazine, but “you don’t hear about the decline of hundreds of species of wild bees,” says Jennifer Sass, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

That’s meant almost literally—we don’t hear them anymore. The plight of the bees illustrates our outsized influence on the this planet as we reshape it—consciously and not—to meet our immediate needs. But just because we have this power doesn’t mean we fully understand it, or our impact on our own world. We are a species that increasingly has omnipotence without omniscience. That’s a dangerous combination for the animals and plants that share this planet with us.  And eventually, it will be dangerous for us, too.

(PHOTOS: The Bee, Magnified: Microscopic Photography by Rose-Lynn Fisher)

(MORE: Behind the Bee’s Knees: The Origins of Nine Bee-Inspired Sayings)

Read more: http://science.time.com/2013/08/09/the-trouble-with-beekeeping-in-the-anthropocene/#ixzz2bgKOPSDD

Link to Time Article http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2149141,00.html#ixzz2bgDT9cAq

Time Magazine Envisions a World Without Honeybees

earthjustice.org  By Liz Judge  8/11/13

TIME Magazine's cover this week depicts a single bee, its wings flapping in frenzied motion on a stark black background. It forebodingly reads, "A WORLD WITHOUT BEES: THE PRICE WE'LL PAY IF WE DON'T FIGURE OUT WHAT'S KILLING THE HONEYBEE".

The article by Bryan Walsh addresses a disastrous phenomenon that could tumble the basis of our food system: the widespread collapse of honeybee colonies nationwide known as "colony collapse disorder." Honeybees across the nation have been dying at rates unseen in history. To say that the bees are dropping like flies, well, it's an affront to the necessity of bees in our food systems and economy. It's hard to talk about colony collapse disorder and not sound Doomsday-ish. And that's because, as Walsh reveals, one-third of the food on our tables is there because of honeybees, which polinate a wide array of the foods we love and need, and their survival is required to fuel our both our bodies and our economy. Forget about berries, fruits, many vegetables if we fail to address this honeybee crisis.

The article illustrates the stakes—what can happen if we lose even more honeybees: The example Walsh singles out is California's $4 billion almond crop, which could fail, and he calls up a powerful demonstration in which a Whole Foods in Rhode Island removed from its produce section all of the foods that exist because of honeybees: 237 out of 453 food items vanished, reports Walsh.

He then asks the necessary question: What's killing them? The TIME article does include a lot of scientific navel-gazing. Much of the mainstream media coverage around honeybee colony collapse just stops there, with scientists scratching their heads, asking questions and spinning a mystery. But, thankfully, Walsh digs into the role of pesticides in all of it. He reports on the lethal effects on bees of a class of pesticides called neonicotinoids, or "neonics" for short.

Neonics are highly toxic to bees. Science shows that these pesticides could be the reason for the widespread die-off, and if these pesticides aren't killing the bees directly, they are likely causing them to lose their way back to the beehive, so they get lost and starve.

But the problem of pesticides is actually morphing and growing as big industrial chemical companies develop and rush to market numerous new types of pesticide chemicals; and those dangerous, new chemicals and pesticides are being rubberstamped for approval by the Environment Protection Agency. Earlier this year, the EPA approved another bee-killing pesticide called Sulfoxaflor. Sulfoxaflor is shown to be “highly toxic” to honey bees and other insect pollinators. Sulfoxaflor is a new chemistry and the first of a newly assigned sub-class of pesticides in the “neonicotinoid” class of pesticides, which some scientists have linked as a potential factor to widespread colony collapse.

The doubt some scientists are casting on the role of these toxic chemicals in colony collapse is unconvincing to many beekeepers across the country, who have observed it all first-hand and know the patterns better than anyone. And these beekeepers have seen all they need to see in their struggle to keep their businesses alive and survive financially. They are so concerned with the effects of pesticides on their industry that they haveenlisted Earthjustice as their lawyers in taking the last-resort action of suing the EPA for continuing to approve pesticides like neonics. Anything but a litigious crowd, the beekeepers feel there's no other recourse to save their struggling industry.

They say that by approving this and other pesticides, or even by providing scant information for farmers about how they should apply the pesticides to protect the honeybees, the EPA is dooming their industry. And they have tried and tried to get EPA to take a close look at the repercussions of these chemicals not only on the beekeeping industry but also on our food systems.

Rick Smith, beekeeper and farmer and Earthjustice client in the lawsuit, when we filed the lawsuit in July, said:

The beekeeping industry has proactively engaged EPA to address concerns for many years. The industry is seriously concerned the comments it submitted during the Sulfoxaflor registration comment period were not adequately addressed before EPA granted full registration.

The sun is now rising on a day where pollinators are no longer plentiful.

Randy Verhoek, President of the Board of the American Honey Producers Association, added:

The bee industry has had to absorb an unreasonable amount of damage in the last decade. Projected losses for our industry this year alone are over $337 million.

Explained Bret Adee, President of the Board of the National Pollinator Defense Fund:

The EPA is charged with preventing unreasonable risk to our livestock, our livelihoods, and most importantly, the nation’s food supply.

This situation requires an immediate correction from the EPA to ensure the survival of commercial pollinators, native pollinators, and the plentiful supply of seed, fruits, vegetables, and nuts that pollinators make possible.

We got involved in this case because the stakes are tremendously high. As Earthjustice attorney Janette Brimmer put it:

The effects will be devastating to our nation’s food supply and also to the beekeeping industry, which is struggling because of toxic pesticides.

This lawsuit against the EPA is an attempt by the beekeepers to save their suffering industry. The EPA has failed them.

And the EPA’s failure to adequately consider impacts to pollinators from these new pesticides is wreaking havoc on an important agricultural industry and gives short shrift to the requirements of the law.

Stay with us as we fight to save beekeepers and their bees, our nation's food supplies, and the future of our country, which depends on a sustainable and healthy food system.

http://earthjustice.org/blog/2013-august/time-magazine-envisions-a-world-without-honeybees

USDA & EPA Release New Report on Honey Bee Health

(The following is brought to us by the American Bee Journal.)  5/2/13

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today released a comprehensive scientific report on honey bee health. The report states that there are multiple factors playing a role in honey bee colony declines, including parasites and disease, genetics, poor nutrition and pesticide exposure. 

"There is an important link between the health of American agriculture and the health of our honeybees for our country's long term agricultural productivity," said Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan. "The forces impacting honeybee health are complex and USDA, our research partners, and key stakeholders will be engaged in addressing this challenge."

"The decline in honey bee health is a complex problem caused by a combination of stressors, and at EPA we are committed to continuing our work with USDA, researchers, beekeepers, growers and the public to address this challenge," said Acting EPA Administrator Bob Perciasepe.  "The report we've released today is the product of unprecedented collaboration, and our work in concert must continue. As the report makes clear, we've made significantprogress, but there is still much work to be done to protect the honey bee population."

In October 2012, a National Stakeholders Conference on Honey Bee Health, led by federal researchers and managers, along with Pennsylvania State University, was convened to synthesize the current state of knowledge regarding the primary factors that scientists believe have the greatest impact on managed bee health. 

Key findings include:

Parasites and Disease Present Risks to Honey Bees:

  • The parasitic Varroa mite is recognized as the major factor underlying colony loss in the U.S. and other countries. There is widespread resistance to the chemicals beekeepers use to control mites within the hive. New virus species have been found in the U.S. and several of these have been associated with Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).

Increased Genetic Diversity is Needed:

  • U.S. honeybee colonies need increased genetic diversity. Genetic variation improves bees thermoregulation (the ability to keep body temperature steady even if the surrounding environment is different), disease resistance and worker productivity.
  • Honey bee breeding should emphasize traits such as hygienic behavior that confer improved resistance to Varroa mites and diseases (such as American foulbrood).

Poor Nutrition Among Honey Bee Colonies:

  • Nutrition has a major impact on individual bee and colony longevity. A nutrition-poor diet can make bees more susceptible to harm from disease and parasites. Bees need better forage and a variety of plants to support colony health.
  • Federal and state partners should consider actions affecting land management to maximize available nutritional forage to promote and enhance good bee health and to protect bees by keeping them away from pesticide-treated fields.

There is a Need for Improved Collaboration and Information Sharing:

  • Best Management Practices associated with bees and pesticide use, exist, but are not widely or systematically followed by members of the crop-producing industry. There is a need for informed and coordinated communication between growers and beekeepersand effective collaboration between stakeholders on practices to protect bees from pesticides.
  • Beekeepers emphasized the need for accurate and timely bee kill incident reporting, monitoring, and enforcement.

Additional Research is Needed to Determine Risks Presented by Pesticides:

  • The most pressing pesticide research questions relate to determining actual pesticide exposures and effects of pesticides to bees in the field and the potential for impacts on bee health and productivity of whole honey bee colonies.

Those involved in developing the report include USDA's Office of Pest Management Policy (OPMP), National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), Agricultural Research Services (ARS), Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), National Resource Conversation Service (NRCS) as well as the EPA and Pennsylvania State University. The report will provide important input to the Colony Collapse Disorder Steering Committee, led by the USDA, EPA and the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS).

An estimated one-third of all food and beverages are made possible by pollination, mainly by honey bees. In the United States, pollination contributes to crop production worth $20-30 billion in agricultural production annually. A decline in managed bee colonies puts great pressure on the sectors of agriculture reliant on commercial pollination services. This is evident from reports of shortages of bees available for the pollination of many crops.

The Colony Collapse Steering Committee was formed in response to a sudden and widespread disappearance of adult honey bees from beehives, which first occurred in 2006. The Committee will consider the report's recommendations and update the CCD Action Plan which will outline major priorities to be addressed in the next 5-10 years and serve as a reference document for policy makers, legislators and the public and will help coordinate the federal strategy in response to honey bee losses.

To view the report, which represents the consensus of the scientific community studying honey bees, please visit: http://www.usda.gov/documents/ReportHoneyBeeHealth.pdf

Dead Bees, Almonds and the EPA

(The following is brought to us by CATCH THE BUZZ (Kim Flottum) Bee Culture, The Magazine of American Beekeeping, published by A.I. Root Company.) 

Bee Industry Hosts US EPA for Tour of Almond Pollination Sites

Dead Bees and Empty Hives Show the Extent of the Losses

Oakdale, CA — U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Assistant Administrator, Jim Jones spent a day with beekeepers and almond growers to learn more about this year’s massive colony losses, and beekeepers’ concerns about the role of pesticides in the decline. The National Pollinator Defense Fund (NPDF) Board provided Jones with a view of the disaster from inside the hive. It was not a pretty picture. Dead hives littered the landscape at one bee yard, and even the hives with bees in them were not at full strength.

I started out last spring in the Midwest with 3,150 healthy bee colonies; of which 992 still survive, and most of those are very weak.  More than 2,150 of my valuable bee colonies are now just gone,” said Jeff Anderson, third generation beekeeper, and owner of California-Minnesota Honey Farms where the tour began.

Escalating colony losses are making replacement difficult.  In the meantime, without bees, they are unable to fulfill pollination contracts or make honey.  Beekeepers are...

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