Bees: How Important Are They and What Would Happen If They Were Extinct?

The Conversation - I Need to Know August 19, 2019

How important are bees and what will happen when they go extinct? Is there research into what is killing them? I’ve been told it’s weed killers… – Tink, aged 18, Cornwall, UK.

Bees – including honey bees, bumble bees and solitary bees – are very important because they pollinate food crops. Pollination is where insects move pollen from one plant to another, fertilising the plants so that they can produce fruit, vegetables, seeds and so on. If all the bees went extinct, it would destroy the delicate balance of the Earth’s ecosystem and affect global food supplies.

There are more than 800 wild bee species within Europe, seven of which are classified by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as critically endangered. A further 46 are endangered, 24 are vulnerable and 101 are near threatened. While it’s unlikely that all bee species will be wiped out anytime soon, losing these threatened species would still have a big impact on pollination around the world, wiping out plant species, some of which we rely on for our food.


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But the problem goes far beyond bees. In fact, honeybees are responsible for only one third of crop pollination and a very small proportion of the wild plant pollination. There are a diverse range of other insects including butterflies, bumblebees and small flies that do the rest of the work – and it looks like these insects are in trouble too.

A bumblebee, pulling it’s weight. Emily L Brown, Author provided

A bumblebee, pulling it’s weight. Emily L Brown, Author provided

A recent study suggests that as many as 40% of the world’s insect species are in decline. Insects are facing extinction rates that are eight times higher than vertebrates. In Germany, scientists have recorded losses of up to 75% of the total mass of insects in protected areas.

These trends lead scientists to believe that about a third of all insect species – that’s nearly 2m – may be threatened with extinction. And that figure is growing by over 100,000 species every year. Yet hard data on threatened insect species is lacking, with only 8,000 records actually assessed by the IUCN.

Here’s a rundown of what scientists believe to be the top causes of declines in insect diversity and abundance.

Invasive species

Invasive predators, parasites and disease-causing bacteria called “pathogens” have been blamed for the collapse of honeybee colonies around the world.

Recently, the spread of the Asian Hornet in Europe has caused great concern. This species preys on honey bees, and a single hornet is capable of killing an entire hive.

There is some evidence that wild bees in North America have declined in the face of fungal and bacterial diseases.



Of course, in the past bees have coexisted with these pathogens. The fact that scientists have seen more bees lost to these diseases in recent times is probably linked with the bees’ increased exposure to pesticides, which can damage their immune systems.

Pesticides

Pollution – particularly from exposure to pesticides – is a key cause of pollinator decline. There are three types of chemical pesticide widely used in the UK: insecticides targeting insect pests, fungicides targeting fungal pathogens of crops and herbicides targeting weeds.

Insecticides contain chemicals that can kill pollinators, so they’re clearly a threat. But they may not be the greatest problem pollinators experience. Herbicides are actually used five times as much in farming as insecticides. These weed killers target a huge variety of the wild plants that bees need to forage.

Environmentally-friendly farming schemes recommend planting wildflower strips on the edge of crops, to provide safe refuge and food sources for pollinators. Yet drifting clouds of herbicide from growing fields can contaminate these wildflower strips.

Wildflowers border farmland in Sussex, UK.  Shutterstock.

Wildflowers border farmland in Sussex, UK. Shutterstock.

The most cutting-edge research suggests glyphosate (the most commonly used weed killer) can impact the gut microbes of bees, which can have devastating implications for their health.

Although exposure to herbicides and pesticides used by farmers is likely to be one of the main causes of pollinator decline, the chemicals used by city authorities and civilian gardeners might also be harming bees and other insects. So, for the bees’ sake, it’s best to avoid using them where possible.

Climate change

Global warming is believed to be a major driver of wild bee declines. Some wild bees can only survive in a narrow range of temperatures. As their habitats get warmer, the places where they can live grow smaller. For example, some might be forced to live at higher altitudes, where it’s cooler, reducing the space they have to live in.

Habitat destruction

The way land is farmed has been associated with declines in biodiversity and pollination. Farming destroys the kinds of spaces that bees use to nest, it takes away the diversity of food that bees use to forage on and it even has wider impacts on other animals like wild birds, mammals and amphibians.

While countless insect species are currently going extinct, those that remain are taking their place, so it’s unlikely that crops will stop being pollinated any time soon. Generalist species such as the buff-tailed bumblebee, the European honey bee and common small black flies, which can survive in a huge range of temperatures and conditions, will become the main species pollinating our food sources, while rarer, more specialist species will decline.

But as generalist species move in to take the place space left by the losses of specialists, and complex ecosystems become dominated by a couple of generalists, the whole system becomes far more susceptible to a single sudden change. Insects form the base of many intricate food webs, their decline will result in a complex cascade of impacts on vertebrates, threatening ecological stability.

https://theconversation.com/bees-how-important-are-they-and-what-would-happen-if-they-went-extinct-121272

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Not Just Bumble and Honey: Ground Nesting Bees Impaired by Neonicotinoid Exposure

Beyond Pesticides March 19, 2019

Honey bees and neonicotinoids.jpg

(Beyond Pesticides, March 19, 2019) Research is beginning to explain how systemic neonicotinoid insecticides affect often overlooked species of ground nesting bees. While much of the current scientific literature has focused on the impacts of pesticides to bumblebees and honey bees, a study, Chronic contact with realistic soil concentrations of imidacloprid affects the mass, immature development speed, and adult longevity of solitary bees, recently published in Scientific Reports, confirms that wild, soil-dwelling bees are at similar risk. As policy makers consider ways to protect pollinators, this research finds that uncontaminated soil is an important aspect of ensuring the health of wild, native bees.

“This is an important piece of work because it’s one of the first studies to look at realistic concentrations of pesticides that you would find in the soil as a route of exposure for bees,” said Nick Anderson, co-author of the study. “It’s a very under-explored route, especially for some of the more solitary species that nest in the ground.”

In order to study the impact of neonicotinoids on ground nesting bees, researchers used orchard mason bees and leafcutter bees as proxies, as they are easier to gather and rear in the lab, and have a similar ecology to ground nesting species. Roughly 300 bees of each species were taken into the lab as larva, and exposed every 48 hours to either 7.5, 15, or 100 ppb of the neonicotinoid imidacloprid. A control with no exposure was also established as a baseline. The authors explain that these amounts represent realistic exposure patterns that wild bees are likely to encounter in soil.

Researchers monitored the bees every day until they reached adulthood, recording longevity, development speed, and mass. Results show that male and female bees have different reactions to exposure. Female mason bees subject to the highest concentrations of imidacloprid live much shorter lives than those unexposed, while the authors had difficulty determining effects on male bees due to an equipment malfunction. Male leafcutter bees actually lived longer than control bees, but developed much faster and to a smaller size than bees not exposed to a pesticide. Female leafcutter development appeared to depend on the concentration of exposure, with the 15ppb group developing slower than other treatment levels and the 100ppb group developing two days faster than control bees.

The changes are likely a result of a hormetic response by the pollinators. This is a phenomena that results from exposure to pesticides; changes in development occur in order to compensate for energy the bee diverts into physical and biological protections from pesticide exposure. This has important implications for the long term health of ground-nesting bees. Any change in development that distracts or alters normal functioning can affect fitness in the field.

Previous research on the environmental fate of neonicotinoids shows that they have the potential to remain in soil from 200 days to as long as 19 years. This means that the type of chronic exposure tested in the current study could occur years or even a decade after an initial pesticide application. Although scientific literature on wild pollinators is limited, past research on mason bees revealed 50% reduced total offspring and a significantly male-biased offspring sex ratio.

The pollinator crisis is broader than honey and bumble bees, and extends not only to native, ground nesting bees but also butterflies and birds. The New York Times has identified the precipitous decline in insect populations over the past several decades as an insect apocalypse.

While bombastic “apocalyptic” language may be criticized for stoking panic and fear, even these warnings have been generally ignored by many policy makers, begging the question of what it will actually take in order to get action on this critical issue. We need to protect not only honey bees, but the wide diversity of native pollinators in order to maintain agricultural production, floral resources, and other ecosystem services that enable our environment, and ultimately human civilization to thrive.

U.S. Representatives Earl Blumenauer, Jim McGovern, and the 33 current cosponsors of the Saving America’s Pollinators Act are listening to these warnings, and have introduced legislation that would substantive address the threats pesticides pose to pollinators. But in order for change to happen, we need a significant outpouring of public support in favor of this proposal. Take action today by urging your member of Congress to cosponsor SAPA. And if you’re also interested in working on this issue in your state or local community, contact Beyond Pesticides at info@beyondpesticides.org or 202-543-5450.

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

Source: University of Illinois Press ReleaseScientific Reports (peer reviewed journal)

https://beyondpesticides.org/dailynewsblog/2019/03/not-just-bumble-and-honey-ground-nesting-bees-impaired-by-neonicotinoid-exposure/

Bee-Harming Pesticides In 75 Percent Of Honey Worldwide: Study

 PHYS.ORG    By Kerry Sheridan     October 5, 2017

Bees help pollinate 90 percent of the world's major crops, but in recent years have been dying off from "colony collapse disorder" Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2017-10-bee-harming-pesticides-percent-honey-worldwide.

Traces of pesticides that act as nerve agents on bees have been found in 75 percent of honey worldwide, raising concern about the survival of these crucial crop pollinators, researchers said Thursday.

Human health is not likely at risk from the concentrations detected in a global sampling of 198 types of honey, which were below what the European Union authorizes for human consumption, said the report in the journal Science.

However, the study found that 34 percent of honey samples were contaminated with "concentrations of neonicotinoids that are known to be detrimental" to bees, and warned that chronic exposure is a threat to bee survival.

Bees help pollinate 90 percent of the world's major crops, but in recent years have been dying off from "colony collapse disorder," a mysterious scourge blamed on mites, pesticides, virus, fungus, or some combination of these factors.

"The findings are alarming," said Chris Connolly, a neurobiology expert at the University of Dundee, who also wrote a Perspective article alongside the research in Science.

"The levels detected are sufficient to affect bee brain function and may hinder their ability to forage on, and pollinate, our crops and our native plants."

Neonicotinoids have been declared a key factor in bee decline worldwide, and the European Union issued a partial ban on their use in 2013.

For the Science study, the European samples were collected largely before this ban took effect, Connolly said. Further research is needed to gauge the effectiveness of the EU steps.

Five common pesticides

Bees collect nectar as they pollinate plants, and over time this sugary liquid accumulates into the thick syrup of honey.

To test contamination levels, samples of honey were taken from local producers worldwide, and researchers tested for five commonly used neonicotinoids: acetamiprid, clothianidin, imidacloprid, thiacloprid, and thiamethoxam.

These pesticides, introduced in the mid 1990s, are based on the chemical structure of nicotine and attack the nervous systems of insect pests.

"Overall, 75 percent of all honey samples contained at least one neonicotinoid," said the study, led by Edward Mitchell of the University of Neuchatel in Switzerland.

"Of these contaminated samples, 30 percent contained a single neonicotinoid, 45 percent contained two or more, and 10 percent contained four or five."

The frequency of contamination was highest in the North American samples (86 percent), followed by Asia (80 percent) and Europe (79 percent).

The lowest concentrations were seen in South American samples (57 percent).

"These results suggest that a substantial proportion of world pollinators are probably affected by neonicotinoids," said the study.

'Serious concern'

Our planet is home to some 20,000 species of bees, which fertilize more than 90 percent of the world's 107 major crops.

The United Nations warned in 2016 that 40 percent of invertebrate pollinators—particularly bees and butterflies—risk global extinction.

Experts said that while the findings are not exactly a surprise, the threat posed by neonicotinoids should be taken seriously.

"The levels recorded (up to 56 nanogram per gram) lie within the bioactive range that has been shown to affect bee behavior and colony health," said plant ecologist Jonathan Storkey, who was not involved in the study.

"Scientists showed earlier this year that levels of less than 9 ng/g reduced wild bee reproductive success," he added.

"I therefore agree with the authors that the accumulation of pesticides in the environment and the concentrations found in hives is a serious environmental concern and is likely contributing to pollinator declines."

According to Lynn Dicks, natural environment research council fellow at the University of East Anglia, the findings are "sobering" but don't offer a precise picture of the threat to bees.

"The severity of the global threat to all wild pollinators from neonicotinoids is not completely clear from this study, because we don't know how the levels measured in honey relate to actual levels in nectar and pollen that wild pollinators are exposed to," she said.

The levels of exposure to harmful pesticides may be far higher than what can be measured in honey, said Felix Wackers, a professor at Lancaster University who was not involved in the research.

"This shows that honeybees are commonly exposed to this group of pesticides while collecting neonicotinoid-contaminated nectar from treated crops or from flowers that have come into contact with spray drift or soil residues," he said.

"The actual level of exposure can be substantially higher, as the honey samples analyzed in this study represents an average of nectar collection over time and space."

Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2017-10-bee-harming-pesticides-percent-honey-worldwide.html#jCp

Bees Face Heavy Pesticide Peril from Drawn-out Sources

Phys.org    By Blaine Friedlander    April 20, 2017

A honeybee collects the pollen from an apple blossom. Credit: Kent Loeffler/ProvidedHoneybees - employed to pollinate crops during the blooming season - encounter danger due to lingering and wandering pesticides, according to an analysis of the bee's own food.

Researchers used 120 pristine honeybee colonies that were placed near 30 apple orchards around New York state. After allowing the bees to forage for several days during the apple flowering period, the scientists examined each hive's "beebread" – the bees' food stores made from gathered pollen – to search for traces of pesticides.

In 17 percent of colonies, the beebread revealed the presence of acutely high levels of pesticide exposure, while 73 percent were found to have chronic exposure.

The new Cornell study was published April 19 in Nature Scientific Reports.

"Our data suggest pesticides are migrating through space and time," said lead author Scott McArt, assistant professor of entomology, who explained that bees may be gathering pollen from nontarget wildflowers, field margins and weeds like dandelions where insecticides seem to linger.

"Surprisingly, there is not much known about the magnitude of risk or mechanisms of pesticide exposure when honeybees are brought in to pollinate major agricultural crops," he said. "Beekeepers are very concerned about pesticides, but there's very little field data. We're trying to fill that gap in knowledge, so there's less mystery and more fact regarding this controversial topic."

More than 60 percent of the found pesticides were attributed to orchards and surrounding farmland that were not sprayed during the apple bloom season, according to the study. McArt said that persistent insecticides aimed at other crops may be surrounding the orchards. In addition, pre-bloom sprays in orchards may accumulate in nearby flowering weeds.

Honeybees create honey in their hive through the topped-out combs, and they keep beebread - their food - in the other combs. Credit: Emma Mullen/Provided"We found risk was attributed to many different types of pesticides. Neonicotinoids were not the whole story, but they were part of the story." he said. "Because neonicotinoids are persistent in the environment and accumulate in pollen and nectar, they are of concern. But one of our major findings is that many other pesticides contribute to risk."

Mass-blooming crops flower in big bursts during the pollination season, so crop producers rent armies of honeybees to supplement the work of wild bees. "There are so many flowers at one given time, often there may not be enough wild bees to perform sufficient pollination services," said McArt.

Crop pollination by insects, particularly bees, can be valued at more than $15 billion annually to the U.S. economy, according to research by Nicholas Calderone, professor emeritus of entomology. Producers and beekeepers are now concerned about the high rates of hive declines – estimated to be about 42 percent in 2014-15 domestically. In New York, the losses are often over 50 percent.

To understand the economics, beekeepers may charge more than $100 per colony for pollination services for apple producers in New York, almond producers in California and blueberry growers in North Carolina. For large farms, several hundred to a thousand pollinating colonies are brought in via large trucks.

Commercial beekeepers sometimes assume they will lose entire colonies, which is why pollination service rates have tripled or quadrupled over the past 15 years, McArt said. He recently shared his research with growers at a New York State Integrated Pest Management meeting, and several farmers said they are interested in altering crop management practices to reduce honeybee injury.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the Department of Agriculture and Markets assembled a Pollinator Protection Plan in 2016. Scientists are developing best management practices, reviving pollinator populations, researching and monitoring, and developing outreach and educational programs for beekeepers and producers.

Co-authors on the study, "High Pesticide Risk to Honeybees Despite Low Focal Crop Pollen Collection During Pollination of a Mass Blooming Crop," are lab manager Ashley Fersch; graduate student Nelson Milano; Lauren Truitt '17; and former research associate Katalin Böröczky.

https://phys.org/news/2017-04-bees-heavy-pesticide-peril-drawn-out.html

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.

http://www.beeculture.com/catch-buzz-epa-finds-pesticides-harm-endangered-species-finally/?utm_source=Catch+The+Buzz&utm_campaign=491f309f5a-Catch_The_Buzz_4_29_2015&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_0272f190ab-491f309f5a-256242233

Millions of Dead Bees After Spraying for Zika Virus

CATCH THE BUZZ    By Dikran Arakelian, Blacklisted News    January 6, 2016

South Carolina honey bees have begun to die in massive numbers. Death of the area’s bees has come suddenly to Dorchester County, S.C. Stressed insects tried to flee their nests, only to surrender in little clumps at the hive entrances. Dead worker bees littering the farms suggested that ‘colony collapse disorder’ was not the culprit.

In colony collapse disorder, workers vanish as though raptured, leaving a living queen and young bees behind. Instead, the dead heaps in S.C signal a more devastating killer. The pattern matches acute pesticide poisoning. By one estimate, in one apiary in Summerville, 46 hives died on the spot, totaling around 2.5 million bees.

Walking through the farm, one Summerville woman stated it was “like visiting a cemetery, pure sadness.”

A Clemson University scientist collected soil samples from Flowertown on Tuesday, December 27, according to WCBD-TV.

The beekeepers have a clear opinion. Their bees had been poisoned by Dorchester’s own insecticide efforts, casualties in the war on disease-carrying mosquitoes.

On Sunday morning, parts of Dorchester County were sprayed with Naled, a common insecticide that kills mosquitoes on contact. The United States began using Naled in 1959, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, which notes that the chemical dissipates so quickly it is not a hazard to people. That said, human exposure to Naled during spraying “should not occur.”

Trucks trailing pesticide clouds are not an unusual sight in S.C. This is thanks to a mosquito-control program that includes destroying the insect’s larvae. Given the current concerns of Zika virus, Dorchester decided to try something different. It marked a departure from Dorchester County’s usual ground-based efforts. For the first time, an airplane dispensed the pesticide in a fine mist between 6:30 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. on Sunday.

The county says it provided plenty of warning, spreading word about the pesticide plane via a newspaper announcement Friday and a Facebook post Saturday.

Local beekeepers felt differently.

“Had I known, I would have been camping on the steps doing whatever I had to do screaming, ‘No you can’t do this,’” beekeeper Juanita Stanley said in an interview with Charleston’s WCSC-TV. Stanley told the Charleston Post and Courier that the bees are her income, but she is more devastated by the loss of the bees than her honey.

The county acknowledged the bee deaths Tuesday. “Dorchester County is aware that some beekeepers in the area that was sprayed on Sunday lost their beehives,” Jason Ward, county administrator, said in a news release. He added, according to the Charleston Post and Courier, “I am not pleased that so many bees were killed.”

Spraying pesticides from the air is not uncommon, particularly when you are covering a large area. In a single year in Florida, more than 6 million acres were sprayed with the chemicals, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The agency argued in January that the technique should be used to curb Zika in Puerto Rico.

This particular pesticide cannot discriminate between honey bees and mosquitos. A profile of the chemical in Cornell University’s pesticide database warned that “Naled is highly toxic to bees.”

Summerville resident Andrew Macke noted that the hot weather had left the bees particularly exposed. Once temperatures exceed 90 degrees, bees may exit the nest to cool down in what is called a beard, clustering on the outside of the hive. Neither Macke nor Stanley had covered their hives.

And then came the plane…

“They passed right over the trees three times,” Stanley said to ABC 4 News. After the plane left, the familiar buzzing stopped. The silence in its wake was like a morgue, she said.

As for the dead bees, as Stanley told the AP, her farm “looks like it’s been nuked.”

http://www.beeculture.com/catch-buzz-millions-dead-bees-spraying-zika-virus/?utm_source=Catch+The+Buzz&utm_campaign=5ec7b0b1ee-Catch_The_Buzz_4_29_2015&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_0272f190ab-5ec7b0b1ee-256242233

2016 Almond Bloom Spray Issues Survey

CATCH THE BUZZ   March 23, 2016

If you pollinated almonds this year, take this survey: 2016 Almond Bloom Spray Issues Survey

Recent reports indicate that many beekeepers have noticed significant loss of brood in their colonies about two weeks after fungicides and/or fungicide/IGR combinations were applied to blooming almonds. In many cases the hive entrances have been clogged with dead young fuzzy bees and pupae that failed to hatch. All beekeepers who experience such losses are encouraged to file a report of loss with the agricultural commissioner’s office in the county where the loss took place. If no report is filed there is a rebuttable presumption that no loss occurred.

If you experienced such brood losses in your colonies, which pollinated almonds, please fill out and send in the following survey:

  1. Did you experience any abnormal loss of brood in your colonies that pollinated almonds in 2016?

  2. How many of your colonies experienced severe brood losses?

  3. Are you aware which pesticide products were applied in the area where your bees were pollinating almonds?

  4. Did you file a report of loss with the agricultural commissioner in the county or counties where your bees were exposed the pesticides?

  5. Please describe location of the colonies while in the almonds using Section, Township/Range, or Road names/numbers and County
  6. Have pollen or dead bee/brood samples been collected for chemical analysis?

  7. Have these losses been reported to any other bee industry brood loss survey in 2016? 

Please e-mail your completed survey to: gbrandi@sbcglobal.net

 

 

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#

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/

Are Pesticides to Blame for the Massive Bee Die-Off?

PBS Newshour  Allison Aubrey, reporting   November 24, 2015

Commercial beekeepers across America have been struggling with great numbers of bee deaths over the past few years. What’s behind their failing health? Some research points to a class of pesticide that’s coated onto a large proportion of corn and soybeans grown in the U.S. Allison Aubrey of NPR reports.

JUDY WOODRUFF: In this week when we think about food, we take a look now at the vital role bees play in getting some of your favorite dishes to the table, and the way commercial beekeepers in the U.S. are struggling to keep their bees healthy.

Allison Aubrey of National Public Radio has our report.

The story is part of the NewsHour’s ongoing collaboration with NPR.

ALLISON AUBREY: It’s harvest time at Adee Honey Farms in Bruce, South Dakota. Bret Adee’s the third generation to manage the 80,000 hives the Adees have scattered across five Midwestern states. He says beekeeping these days is much harder than it’s ever been.

BRET ADEE, Adee Honey Farms: In 2010, our bees were just destroyed in a couple of weeks. Most of our bees died.

ALLISON AUBREY: Bret says things really haven’t improved much.

BRET ADEE: I would to see about twice to three times as many bees in most of the hives right now. It will be a real challenge to keep them alive through the winter.

ALLISON AUBREY: The Adees are not alone. According to a preliminary survey from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, commercial beekeepers lost 42 percent of their colonies last year. Bees are a critical part of agriculture.

Adee trucks his bees out to pollinate California’s almond groves every year. And it’s not just almonds. Bees pollinate everything from apples to cherries and squash. To figure out what’s plaguing the bees, the Obama administration assembled a task force last year. Scientists at the EPA, USDA and researchers across the country who have been studying the problem are finding there are multiple issues.

Bees have fewer wildflowers to forage on due to a loss of habitat. There’s viruses that pests pass on to the bees. Climate change is thought to play a role too. Another issue is pesticides. Some studies suggest that a class of pesticides known as neonicotinoid, or neonics for short, are harming the bees.

These pesticides are coated onto the seed of about 80 percent of the corn that’s grown in the United States and about half the soybeans too. To get a sense of that scale, imagine a cornfield like this taking up the entire state of California. That’s how much of this pre-treated seed is being planted.

CHRISTIAN KRUPKE, Purdue University: This is what corn seeds look like after they have been treated.

ALLISON AUBREY: The pesticide is put onto the corn before it’s ever planted?

CHRISTIAN KRUPKE: That’s right.

ALLISON AUBREY: Christian Krupke is an entomologist at Purdue University who studies bees. His research shows that neonicotinoids can harm bees.

What is a neonicotinoid?

CHRISTIAN KRUPKE: A neonicotinoid is — as the name would suggest, it’s based on nicotine. They’re less toxic to mammals, which is a big feature in their wide adoption. But they are more toxic to honey bees and to other insects.

ALLISON AUBREY: Neonics are a relatively new class of pesticide. They have been around since the early 1990s. They are easier for farmers to use than the traditional method of spraying crops. And according to researchers at Penn State University, their use has increased more than 11-fold since 2003. Companies that sell them are making billions of dollars.

CHRISTIAN KRUPKE: Virtually all of these large acre plants are being treated. So, the level of use is way out of step with the level of the threat. In most fields, and where we have worked, we just haven’t been able to find levels of pests that would justify the level of use.

ALLISON AUBREY: Krupke published a study that linked bee deaths with the pesticide-laden dust that flies up during the planting of the pre-treated corn seeds.

CHRISTIAN KRUPKE: We collected some of those bees and analyzed them and found neonicotinoids on them and in them, so there is an intersection between planting these crops and killing foraging honey bees.

ALLISON AUBREY: Bayer CropScience is one of the leading manufacturers of neonicotinoids. Bayer’s chief scientist, David Fischer, acknowledges Krupke’s findings, but he says Bayer has a seed lubricant that reduces the dust. He says that, outside these acute exposures, neonicotinoids are not harmful to bees.

DAVID FISCHER, Bayer CropScience: We have done those studies. And those studies basically show, if you spray the product, it’s not safe for the bees. If you apply the product to the soil or as a seed treatment, the level of residues that gets up into the plant is in a safe range.

ALLISON AUBREY: Christian Krupke is not convinced.

CHRISTIAN KRUPKE: We find these pesticides in the water. Bees drink water. Plants use water. We find that wildflowers that grow near these areas also have some of these pesticides in them. You add that up over the course of a season, and, yes, we do find concerning levels.

ALLISON AUBREY: Krupke says those levels do not kill the bees, but may leave them more vulnerable.

Bayer’s chief scientist says the major threat to bees is a mite that punctures the honey bees body and feeds on its blood. It’s known as the Varroa mite. And a recent report issued by President Obama’s task force also points to the mite as one issue.

DAVID FISCHER: Eighty percent of the problem is Varroa mites and the viruses and the diseases those viruses cause.

ALLISON AUBREY: But some beekeepers suspect the increased use of the newer pesticides is making their bees more vulnerable to the mite.

BRET ADEE: For 15 years, we managed that Varroa mite and kept our losses under 5 to 8 percent. Now we’re losing 50 percent of the bees every year.

ALLISON AUBREY: Pesticide manufacturers, including Bayer and Syngenta have launched campaigns of their own to boost bee health. Both companies are planting millions of flowers in the U.S. to increase bee forage.

And in 2014, Bayer CropScience opened this $2 million bee care center in North Carolina, where they conduct workshops and tours. Environmentalists say these initiatives are a diversion from the real problem, the pesticides these companies manufacture, something Fischer rejects.

DAVID FISCHER: Bayer has actually been in the business of providing products to beekeepers for more than 20 years. It’s not something that we just started doing.

ALLISON AUBREY: Beekeepers in Europe came out in force a few years ago in support of the European Union’s partial ban on the use of some of these neonics.

And here in the U.S., the Environmental Protection Agency says it will speed up a safety review and likely not allow any new uses of the pesticide. Environmental groups are locked in several court battles challenging the EPA over the registration of these pesticides.

Manufacturers maintain that neonics are vital for increasing crop production and safer than spraying.

DAVID FISCHER: They’re extremely valuable. They increase crop yields often by 20 percent vs. the other competitors. So, they contribute billions of dollars to the ag economy in the United States.

CHRISTIAN KRUPKE: That would be true if these products, these neonicotinoids, were indispensable to these crops, to agriculture, but they’re not.

Some of our own work in corn and the work of others in the United States has shown that it’s very difficult to consistently show a yield benefit.

ALLISON AUBREY: Lucas Criswell farms close to 2,000 acres of corn, soybeans, wheat and rye in Pennsylvania’s Susquehanna Valley. He has stopped using treated seed because he found it wasn’t only killing the bad pests, but the pests he needed to ward off the slugs that were eating his soybean crops.

LUCAS CRISWELL, Farmer: The soil in our fields are a huge ecology of different critters and insects. And they’re all there. We need good and bad. It takes a balance of them all, and that’s what we have seen.

ALLISON AUBREY: Criswell now keeps pests at bay in his fields by planting crops that encourage beneficial insects. The treated seeds cost more, so this method ends up being cheaper for him.

Is it too soon enough to say whether you’re getting the same yields?

LUCAS CRISWELL: Is there corn growing on that hill? It grew.

ALLISON AUBREY: It looks like a lot of corn.

Earlier this year, President Obama’s task force called for a reevaluation of the pesticides. And, consistent with the president’s requirements, the EPA has expedited its review.

I’m Allison Aubrey of NPR News for the PBS NewsHour in Bruce, South Dakota.

Read and View: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/are-pesticides-to-blame-for-the-massive-bee-die-off/

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/

Effects of Sub-lethal Doses of Glyphosate On Honeybee Navigation

The Journal of Experimental Biology   Accepted July 2, 2015

Research Article/Abstract

Glyphosate (GLY) is a herbicide that is widely used in agriculture for weed control. Although reports about the impact of GLY in snails, crustaceans and amphibians exist, few studies have investigated its sub-lethal effects in non-target organisms such as the honeybeeApis mellifera, the main pollen vector in commercial crops. Here, we tested whether exposure to three sub-lethal concentrations of GLY (2.5, 5 and 10 mg/L corresponding to 0.125, 0.250 and 0.500 µg/animal) affects the homeward flight path of honeybees in an open field. We performed an experiment in which forager honeybees were trained to an artificial feeder, and then captured, fed with sugar solution containing GLY traces and released from a novel site (the release site, RS) either once or twice. Their homeward trajectories were tracked using harmonic radar technology. We found that honeybees that had been fed with solution containing 10 mg/L GLY spent more time performing homeward flights than control bees or bees treated with lower GLY concentrations. They also performed more indirect homing flights. Moreover, the proportion of direct homeward flights performed after a second release at the RS increased in control bees but not in treated bees. These results suggest that, in honeybees, exposure to GLY doses commonly found in agricultural settings impairs the cognitive capacities needed to retrieve and integrate spatial information for a successful return to the hive. Therefore, honeybee navigation is affected by ingesting traces of the most widely used herbicide worldwide, with potential long-term negative consequences for colony foraging success.

Read at: http://jeb.biologists.org/content/early/2015/07/09/dev.117291.abstract

Pesticides Found in Most Pollen Collected from Foraging Bees in Massachusetts

ABJ Extra    July 24, 2015

Boston, MA -- More than 70% of pollen and honey samples collected from foraging bees in Massachusetts contain at least one neonicotinoid, a class of pesticide that has been implicated in Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), in which adult bees abandon their hives during winter, according to a new study from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

The study will be published online July 23, 2015 in the Journal of Environmental Chemistry.

"Data from this study clearly demonstrated the ubiquity of neonicotinoids in pollen and honey samples that bees are exposed to during the seasons when they are actively foraging across Massachusetts. Levels of neonicotinoids that we found in this study fall into ranges that could lead to detrimental health effects in bees, including CCD," said Chensheng (Alex) Lu, associate professor of environmental exposure biology in the Department of Environmental Health at Harvard Chan School and lead author of the study.

Since 2006, there have been significant losses of honey bee colonies. Scientists, policymakers, farmers, and beekeepers are concerned with this problem because bees are prime pollinators of roughly one-third of all crops worldwide.

Previous studies analyzed either stored pollen collected from hives or pollen samples collected from bees at a single point in time. In this study, the Harvard Chan School researchers looked at pollen samples collected over time--during spring and summer months when bees forage--from the same set of hives across Massachusetts. Collecting pollen samples in this way enabled the researchers to determine variations in the levels of eight neonicotinoids and to identify high-risk locations or months for neonicotinoid exposure for bees. To do so, the researchers worked with 62 Massachusetts beekeepers who volunteered to collect monthly samples of pollen and honey from foraging bees, from April through August 2013, using pollen traps on the landings of beehives. The beekeepers then sent the samples to the researchers.

The researchers analyzed 219 pollen and 53 honey samples from 62 hives, from 10 out of 14 counties in Massachusetts. They found neonicotinoids in pollen and honey for each month collected, in each location--suggesting that bees are at risk of neonicotinoid exposure any time they are foraging anywhere in Massachusetts.

The most commonly detected neonicotinoid was imidacloprid, followed by dinotefuran. Particularly high concentrations of neonicotinoids were found in Worcester County in April, in Hampshire County in May, in Suffolk County in July, and in Essex County in June, suggesting that, in these counties, certain months pose significant risks to bees.

The new findings suggest that neonicotinoids are being used throughout Massachusetts. Not only do these pesticides pose a significant risk for the survival of honey bees, but they also may pose health risks for people inhaling neonicotinoid-contaminated pollen, Lu said. "The data presented in this study should serve as a basis for public policy that aims to reduce neonicotinoid exposure," he said.

Read at: http://goo.gl/ae562o

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/

It's Earth Day! Let's Join Together and Save the Honey Bee!

Huffington Post  By Margie Alt   April 22, 2015 

Forty-five years ago, the first Earth Day spawned great progress for our air, water and natural areas. The day activated millions of Americans, brought together political leaders of all stripes, and led to the passage of the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, and other bedrock environmental laws. Today, the annual day of action for the environment still inspires more than 1 billion people across the globe.

This Earth Day while celebrating our big accomplishments, we also need to think about something small: the honeybee. Though less than an inch long, the tiny honeybee has major implications for our food supply. In addition to providing us with honey and aiding the beauty of our gardens, honeybees are responsible for pollinating an estimated 71 percent of the world's most widely consumed food crops, including almonds, squash, apples, avocados and more.

Image: FlickrUnfortunately, despite decades of environmental progress, today our food supply and our gardens are in trouble. Bees are dying by the millions. U.S. bee populations have reached historic lows, and we're losing nearly a third of our bee colonies each year -- a rate that more than triples what was once considered normal.

Scientists point to a complex web of factors, including climate change and habitat destruction, to explain the massive collapse of bee colonies here and across the world. But a certain class of insecticides has emerged as a clear culprit. Sharing the same chemical properties as nicotine, neonicotinoids are neurotoxins that can kill bees directly. In addition, these chemicals can disorient them and make it harder for them to get back to their hives. And they can create long-term health and reproductive problems for bee populations.

Image: Waugsberg / Wikimedia Creative CommonsMore than 30 lab studies have shown that these pesticides are a danger to bees. Yet nearly three-quarters of U.S. farms are doused with neonics each year, and up to half of garden plants currently sold in retailers Walmart, Home Depot, and Lowes have been pre-treated with the harmful chemicals.

Slowly, that's beginning to change. The state of Oregon just enacted a limited ban on four types of neonics. Major garden-supply retailers Lowes recently announced it will phase out the use of neonics in its pesticides and garden plants. And earlier this month, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency took a modest step forward when it announced it would likely ban new uses of the pesticide.

But more must be done. And Earth Day is a perfect day for action.To reverse today's alarming honeybee decline, let's all call for governments and corporations to ban neonics. And if you're planting a garden this spring, you also can help save the bees in your in own backyard. Don't use pesticides or plants and seeds treated with them. And whether your garden spans a flower box or your entire yard, include plants that bees love, such as native wildflowers, flowering herbs, and berries.

This Earth Day, let's certainly celebrate our big accomplishments. But don't forget to think of the little honeybee too. Support efforts to ban neonics, plant a bee-friendly garden, and protect honeybees for the summer and years to come so that on future Earth Days, along with celebrating the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act we can celebrate the revival of the honeybees.

Read at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/margie-alt/its-earth-day-lets-join-together-and-save-the-honeybee_b_7112722.html

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.”

The Perilous Life of a Professional Honeybee

KLCC 89.7    By Cassandra Profita   August 18, 2014

The death and disappearance of  bees is raising questions and concerns from Northwest neighborhoods all the way up to the White House. Some attribute bee declines to the use of certain pesticides – especially after chemicals killed thousands of bees in Oregon. But as EarthFix reporter Cassandra Profita explains, researchers are still trying to determine how much of the nation’s bee problem stems from pesticide exposure.

Beekeeper George Hansen just got some good news...

Read more and Listen to Radio Broadcast: http://klcc.org/post/perilous-life-professional-honeybee#.U_KxeFzwfmI.facebook


Make Sure the New Federal Strategy for Bees Addresses Pesticides

Pesticide Action Network       August 14, 2014

This Saturday, August 16, is National Honey Bee Day. To celebrate the occasion, will you join us in calling on President Obama for meaningful action to protect bees?

Earlier this summer, the President announced a new federal task force to "promote the health of honey bees and other pollinators." It’s encouraging that the White House recognizes the importance of bees for food, farming and our economy. But we need to ensure this task force results in real, long-lasting protections for pollinators — and we need your help to deliver this message loud and clear.

Bees need protections that count» In the President’s memo he emphasizes public education, additional research and habitat expansion. All important, to be sure. But there isn’t much clarity about how the task force will address one of the primary threats to bees and other pollinators: pesticide exposure.

Numerous independent studies clearly show a link between pesticides and bee declines, with neonicotinoids (or “neonics”) leading the pack of bee-toxic chemicals. Not only can neonics kill bees outright, but they can impair bee brain function and suppress immunity to common pathogens in smaller doses. And they’re the most widely used insecticides in the world.

Studies show neonics are also harmful to other pollinators like birds and butterflies, with enough pesticide on one single neonic-coated seed to kill a songbird.

Based on the growing body of evidence, including a newly released “worldwide assessment” of the impact of neonics, scientists around the globe are calling for immediate action to restrict the use of neonics. Are U.S. decisionmakers listening?

The science is clear. Time for action» While the European Union and other governments have taken decisive action to protect pollinators based on the emerging scientific evidence, U.S. policymakers have been doggedly slow to act. Time for that to change!

Urge President Obama to ensure that the new pollinator task force steps up and enacts meaningful and rapid protections for bees. Pesticides are a very real threat to bee health that urgently needs to be addressed.

Thanks for keeping this important issue front and center.

Read at and Take Action: http://action.panna.org/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=15965&utm_source=alert&utm_medium=petition&utm_content=food&utm_campaign=bees

My View: Look Past Pesticides to Study Pollinator Health

 Portland Tribune    By Jeff Stone & Scott Dahlsman    June 26, 2014

As fellow state Pollinator Health Task Force members, we were disappointed to read the piece written by Aimee Code and Scott Hoffman Black of the Xerces Society (Protect pollinators like our lives depend on it, guest column, June 19).

The column included a number of inaccurate claims. It also suggests that some members of the task force are more interested in banning a product they don’t like instead of actually looking for ways to improve pollinator health.

The concerns about pesticide use and potential effects on bees are very important to all pesticide users, but especially those involved in agriculture. Oregon farmers depend on bees to pollinate many of their crops, but also depend on pesticide tools to control destructive pests.

Similarly, commercial beekeepers rely on healthy crops to optimize their pollination services. This means that Oregon growers and beekeepers have a lot at stake in this conversation, and each share a vested interest in ensuring that protecting bee health and the use of pesticides are not mutually exclusive.

Bee health is important to all of us, and nobody wants to see adverse incidents that add to bee population declines. That being said, it is easy to let emotion drive the conversation around these issues. We should instead let science be our guide.

While concerns about pesticides and bees have been around for decades...

Continue reading at: http://portlandtribune.com/pt/10-opinion/225158-87079-my-view-look-past-pesticides-to-study-pollinator-health