EPA Finds Pesticides Could Harm Endangered Species, Finally

Bee Culture     February 3, 2017

An environmental advocacy group called for “commonsense measures” to protect wildlife from three pesticides after a federal analysis found that they were likely to harm the country’s endangered species.

The Center for Biological Diversity said Wednesday that the final results of a study from the Environmental Protection Agency showed that 97 percent of plants and animals on the Endangered Species List would be hurt by chlorpyrifos and malathion, while 78 percent would be affected by diazinon.

The group said that all three are common organophosphate insecticides. Chlorpyrifos, in particular, drew concern from advocacy groups in recent years after it was linked to illnesses among farm workers and neurodevelopmental problems in children.

The EPA proposed banning the use of chlorpyrifos on food crops, but the agrichemical industry has resisted those efforts and advocates are worried about how the Trump administration will address the pesticide.

“We’re now getting a much more complete picture of the risks that pesticides pose to wildlife at the brink of extinction, including birds, frogs, fish and plants,” said CBD senior scientist Nathan Donley.

Federal environmental laws require the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service to incorporate the EPA evaluations into their opinions for pesticides “likely to adversely affect” endangered species or their habitats.


Court Revokes Approval of Insecticide, Citing Alarming Decline in Bees

Los Angeles Times   By Maura Dolan and Geoffarey Mohan September 10, 2015

An appeals court Thursday overturned federal approval of an insecticide used on a variety of crops, ruling that it could hasten an already “alarming” decline in bees.

The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said the federal Environmental Protection Agency approved the insecticide, sulfoxaflor, based on flawed and limited information. Initial studies showed the insecticide was highly toxic to honey bees.

"Bees are essential to pollinate important crops and in recent years have been dying at alarming rates,” Judge Mary M. Schroeder, a Carter appointee, wrote for a three-judge panel.

Beekeepers and beekeeping organizations challenged the EPA's 2013 approval of sulfoxaflor, made by Dow Agrosciences and designed for use on many crops, including citrus, cotton, canola, strawberries, soybeans and wheat.

Janette Brimmer, who represented the beekeepers for Earthjustice, an environmental group, said the ruling affects the entire country and will force states to withdraw more local rules that have permitted the insecticide.

Federal appeals courts "almost never" overturn EPA approvals of pesticides, Brimmer said.

"This was a pretty significant decision," she said. "It revokes the registration, and it is a national registration."

Sold under the brand names Closer and Transform, sulfoxaflor is an insecticide aimed at piercing and sucking insects (such as aphids and lygus) that attack a variety of crops, such as cotton, tomato, pepper, strawberry and citrus. It was registered for use in California in 2014, according to Department of Pesticide Regulation records.

California regulators have limited the insecticide’s use to lettuce, which does not attract bees. Lettuce growers asked for special permission this year to apply the chemical to control aphids.

The California Department of Pesticide Regulation granted the request but restricted the amount farmers could use. As a result of Thursday’s ruling, the state will prevent sulfoxaflor’s use on any produce, a department spokeswoman said.

The court said the EPA recognized the potential hazard to bees but decided the risks would be reduced by rules limiting applications. That decision was made without “any meaningful study,” the court said.

“Given the precariousness of bee populations, leaving the EPA’s registration of sulfoxaflor in place risks more potential environmental harm than vacating it,” the 9th Circuit concluded.

Read at: http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-bees-insecticide-20150910-story.html

(Note from NYCBeekeeping: "The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the EPA approved the insecticide, sulfoxaflor, based on flawed and limited information.
This revokes the registration, which may seem a good thing, but it actually means that all "existing stocks" can be used without any regard to the label instructions, including any bee-protectve language. The NRDC learned this the hard way with spirotetramat, FIFRA may prohibit sales but not use.
When are beekeepers going to learn that "revoking registrations" is not the way to go, that the registration needs to be reworded to outlaw the specific uses that put bees at risk?
Full ruling here: cdn.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/opinions/…/09/10/13-72346.pdf)

Honey Bee Losses are Buzz Kill for Crops

The Los Angeles Times    By Geoffrey Mohan   May 14, 2015

Managed honeybee colonies suffered annual losses of 42%, with summer declines outstripping winter losses for the first time, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported Wednesday.

The declines are less steep than those associated with the mysterious widespread collapse of bee colonies, first recognized in 2006, but remain troublesome, driving up prices for crop pollination services, according to the department.

“Beekeepers in some cases are replacing half their operations during the year,” said Jeff Pettis, a senior research entomologist at the USDA Agricultural Research Center's Bee Research Laboratory in Beltsville, Md.
California has the largest number of beekeeping operations in the country. Its almond industry, the single largest user of honeybees, paid more than $292 million for pollination services in 2012, according to the USDA.

Prices for colony rentals for a three- to five-week pollination period ranged from $140 to $200 last year, depending on colony size, according to the online beekeeping community Beesource.com.

Summer colony losses averaged 27.4%, based on the agency's annual survey, which included more than 6,100 beekeepers managing 400,000 colonies — about 16% of the colonies managed nationwide.

The decline outstripped the 23% winter loss, according to the survey.

“We've always known that we had summer losses,” Pettis said. “We just never tried to quantify it before.”

Although winters are stressful for hived bees, spring and summer are the times when colonies are moved from crop to crop across multiple states.

“That pollination workload is certainly part of it,” Pettis said.

In addition to the summer losses, entomologists are puzzling over reports of unusually high rates of queen loss, which can doom a colony. “Queen honeybees are either dying in the colony or being replaced,” Pettis said. “They're failing for some reason.”

A 2012 USDA study attributed colony collapse disorder to multiple factors, including beekeeping practices, parasites, viruses and exposure to agricultural chemicals such as neonicotinoid pesticides.

Such stress amounts to “death by a thousand cuts” for bee colonies, said Gordon Wardell, pollination manager for Paramount Farms, which rents 90,000 colonies to pollinate its 46,000 acres of almond trees in the San Joaquin Valley.

“Commercial beekeepers are pushing their bees more,” causing imbalances in the social structure of colonies, he said.

That social structure, tightly regulated by chemical pheromones, is key to survival of a colony. Normally, a colony experiences rapid population growth that tapers off as winter approaches, Wardell said.

“They're keeping the bees in that exponential growth phase longer than they normally would be in it,” he said.

Because foraging bees survive only a few weeks, a colony can quickly collapse without adequate replacements.

A recent study showed that even a slight increase in forager mortality can cause a domino effect — worker bees become foragers too early in their life cycle, increasing their mortality, perpetuating the cycle that can cause colony collapse within months.

Even a weakened colony can drastically affect pollination, Wardell said.

“We had a real quick bloom this year; the bloom happened in about two weeks,” Wardell said. “And if you don't have real strong colonies, your flowers don't get pollinated.”

Pointing to the colony declines, environmental and food safety groups have been pushing to suspend or ban the use of neonicotinoid pesticides, commonly used to coat seeds.

“These dire honeybee numbers add to the consistent pattern of unsustainable bee losses in recent years that threatens our food system,” Tiffany Finck-Haynes, food futures campaigner with Friends of the Earth, said Wednesday.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in April informed registered users of neonicotinoids that the agency is “likely not to be in a position to approve” new applications of the chemicals while it weighs the risk to crop pollinators.

The European Union banned use of several neonicotinoid chemicals two years ago, but their replacement with older pesticides has led to insect infestations in some crops.

Read at:  http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-bee-loss-crops-20150512-story.html?fb_action_ids=10207230500107460&fb_action_types=og.shares

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 Provides Funding for Mosquito, Honeybee Study

Louisana State University Ag Center News Release By Johnny Morgan Distributed 01/08/14

BATON ROUGE, La. – Officials from the Environmental Protection Agency presented a $167,874 check to the LSU AgCenter on Jan. 8 as part of an integrated pest management program.

The grant will fund research to assess the effects of insecticides used to control mosquitoes on honeybees, said LSU AgCenter entomologist Kristen Healy.

“The goal of this study is to develop best management practice guidelines for the use of insecticides in ways that don’t negatively impact honeybees,” Healy said.

Jim Jones, EPA assistant administrator for chemical safety and pollution prevention, who made the check presentation, said this research will address pollinator protection.

“This is one of three grants that EPA presented to universities across the country this week,” Jones said.

He said the goal of the Louisiana research is to be sure that the chemicals sprayed to kill mosquitoes do not have an adverse effect on honeybees.

“There is a sense that pesticides are contributing to the decline in pollinators, and pollinators are critical to the production of food and fiber in the United States,” Jones said, adding that the health of honeybee populations is important to the very existence of some crops.

Healy said this project will be conducted in collaboration with other local groups that share an interest, along with the beekeepers.

“The East Baton Rouge Mosquito Abatement and Rodent Control program first contacted us with the desire to address recent concerns of beekeepers and pesticide use,” Healy said.

From that communication, the research project was developed through the LSU AgCenter’s collaboration with the East Baton Rouge Parish agency and EPA, she said.

“I would like to thank the EPA for supporting our grant project and for providing us with the funding to accomplish our goals,” Healy said. “It was exciting news to find out our project was funded, and we look forward to completing our objectives and sharing our results over the next few years.”

This project supports the AgCenter’s mission to provide research-based information to improve life in Louisiana, Healy said. “We hope our research can provide much-needed information for beekeepers and pesticide applicators across Louisiana.”

Jones said the other grants this year were awarded to scientists at Pennsylvania State University and the University of Vermont.

“In Pennsylvania they will be developing an integrated pest management program against slug populations in Mid-Atlantic no-till grain fields,” Jones said.

The University of Vermont received a grant to study integrated pest management for hop growers in the Northeast.


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...