USDA Announces Update To National Road Map For Integrated Pest Management (Ipm)


WASHINGTON, October 24, 2018 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced today the first update since 2013 of the National Road Map for Integrated Pest Management (IPM) (PDF, 340 KB).

The update culminates a yearlong review by the Federal Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Coordinating Committee (FIPMCC), a joint effort that is coordinated by the Office of Pest Management Policy in the Office of USDA’s Chief Economist with representatives of all federal agencies with responsibilities in IPM research, implementation, or education programs. These agencies include Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Department of the Interior (DOI), and Department of Defense (DoD).

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is a science-based, sustainable decision-making process that uses information on pest biology, environmental data, and technology to manage pest damage in a way that minimizes both economic costs and risks to people, property, and the environment.

The National Road Map for Integrated Pest Management (IPM), first introduced in 2004, is periodically updated to reflect the evolving science, practice, and nature of IPM. The Road Map provides guidance to the IPM community on the adoption of effective, economical, and safe IPM practices, and on the development of new practices where needed. The guidance defines, prioritizes, and articulates pest management challenges across many landscapes, including: agriculture, forests, parks, wildlife refuges, military bases, as well as in residential, and public areas, such as public housing and schools. The Road Map also helps to identify priorities for IPM research, technology, education and implementation through information exchange and coordination among federal and non-federal researchers, educators, technology innovators, and IPM practitioners.

About OCE Office of Pest Management Policy

The USDA’s Office of Pest Management Policy (OPMP) is responsible for the development and coordination of Department policy on pest management and pesticides. It coordinates activities and services of the Department, including research, extension, and education activities, coordinates interagency activities, and consults with agricultural producers that may be affected by USDA-related pest management or pesticide-related activities or actions. OPMP also works with EPA on pesticide and water pollution issues and represents USDA at national and international scientific and policy conferences.

16 Grants Totaling $7 Million For Research

FFAR      March 13, 2018

Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research Awards $7 Million to 16 Research Teams Advancing Science and Technology to Improve Pollinator Health

Geoffrey Williams, Ph.D., Auburn University assistant professor of entomology and plant biology, is leading a FFAR Pollinator Health Fund grant to study the interactions between two causes of honey bee decline: pesticides and Varroa mites.WASHINGTON, March 13, 2018 – The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, a nonprofit established through bipartisan congressional support in the 2014 Farm Bill, today announced 16 grants totaling $7 million for research to address declining pollinator health, an ongoing threat to agricultural productivity in the United States. The FFAR awards are matched by more than 50 companies, universities, organizations and individuals for a total investment of $14.3 million toward research and technology development.

Insect pollinators support crop yields and agricultural ecosystems and contribute an estimated 24 billion dollars to the United States economy annually. New technology, knowledge and best practice guidance tailored to specific regions and land uses has potential to accelerate efforts to improve pollinator health across the United States. Researchers funded through the Pollinator Health Fund are working to address social and economic challenges faced by beekeepers, farmers, home owners and other land managers across the United States.

“Declines in native and managed insect pollinator populations threaten both the agricultural systems that sustain us and the ecosystems that surround us,” said Sally Rockey, Ph.D., executive director of FFAR. “The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research is pleased to support these 16 research teams who will bring new scientific rigor, best practices and technology to current efforts toward improving pollinator health in the United States.”

The following Principle Investigators are leading research projects supported by the Pollinator Health Fund. Grants were awarded to successful applications to a competitive call for proposals in which applicants were required to secure funding to match the FFAR grant.

Kristen Baum, Ph.D., Oklahoma State University, is working with collaborators to investigate how floral choice, nutrition, and agrochemicals influence the health of native bees and honey bees across land uses in the Southern Great Plains witha $233,708 FFAR grant.

Steven Cook, Ph.D., U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service, is collaborating with multiple stakeholder groups to develop and test novel controls for the parasitic mite Varroa destructor, an ongoing threat to honey bee colonies, with a $ 475,559 FFAR grant.                    

Margaret Couvillon, Ph.D., Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, is examining pollinator behavior in different landscapes to determine where and when planting supplemental forage could have the most positive effect on pollinator nutrition with a $614,067 FFAR grant.

Sandra DeBano, Ph.D., Oregon State University, is researching the impact of livestock grazing, invasive weeds and the fires used to control those weeds on native bees inhabiting range and pasturelands with a $321,127 FFAR grant.

Deborah Finke, Ph.D, University of Missouri, is developing best seed planting practices to improve bumblebee and monarch habitat and collaborating with the Missouri Department of Conservation and other state organizations to share guidance with homeowners, landowners, farmers and agricultural consultants with a $353,044 FFAR grant.

Timothy Gibb, Ph.D., Purdue University, is developing public school curricula and training high school students and teachers to catalyze pollinator protection action in their communities with a $297,499 FFAR grant.

Christina Gorzinger, Ph.D., The Pennsylvania State University, is leading a team of researchers from Penn State, University of Minnesota, University of California, Davis, and Dickinson College to develop online decision support tools to help beekeepers, growers, plant producers, land managers and gardeners better select and manage diverse landscapes to promote healthy managed and wild bee populations with a $1,177,137 FFAR grant.

Andony Melathopoulos, Ph.D., Oregon State University, is conducting research and outreach to develop, implement and evaluate crop-specific best practices that meet the unique agronomic challenges for managing pollinator populations in the Pacific Northwest with a $544,929 FFAR grant.

Lisa Schulte Moore, Ph.D., Iowa State University of Science and Technology, is leading an interdisciplinary research team to study whether integrating strips of prairie habitat in crop fields might improve managed and native pollinator health with a $503,028 FFAR grant.

Lauren Ponisio, Ph.D., University of California, Riverside, is measuring the effectiveness of recommended almond orchard management practices in reducing the negative impacts of pesticides, parasites and inadequate nutrition on crop pollinators with a $490,355 FFAR grant.

Sandra Rehan, Ph.D., University of New Hampshire, is training scientists and developing new educational resources for identification of New England wild bees and region-specific habitat planting recommendations with a $546,511 FFAR grant.

Clare Rittschof, Ph.D., University of Kentucky, is researching whethercover cropping practices that allow for winter weed growth can enhance pollinator habitat on agricultural land with a $120,900 FFAR grant.      

Arathi Seshadri, Ph.D., Colorado State University, is working to arm Colorado beekeepers with new knowledge to support pollinator health by studying the impact of phytochemicals, nutritional diversity and metabolic capacity on honeybee health with a $488,000 FFAR grant.

Barbara Sharanowski, Ph.D., University of Central Florida, is engaging citizens across the country to plant native wildflowers in their yards and collect pollinator population data using a mobile app with a $338,613 FFAR grant.

David Tarpy, Ph.D., North Carolina State University, is investigating the impact of pesticide exposure on honeybee colony disease prevalence and reproductive potential with a $217,000 FFAR grant.

Geoffrey Williams, Ph.D., Auburn University, is studying the interactions between pesticides and Varroa mites, and whether beekeepers can take advantage of honey bee mating behavior to improve resistance to pesticides, with a $283,000 FFAR grant.

To learn more about the FFAR Pollinator Health Fund and these research projects, please visit

About the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research

The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization established by bipartisan Congressional support in the 2014 Farm Bill, builds unique partnerships to support innovative and actionable science addressing today’s food and agriculture challenges.  FFAR leverages public and private resources to increase the scientific and technological research, innovation, and partnerships critical to enhancing sustainable production of nutritious food for a growing global population. The FFAR Board of Directors is chaired by Mississippi State University President Mark Keenum, Ph.D., and includes ex officio representation from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and National Science Foundation.

Learn more: Connect: @FoundationFAR | @RockTalking

Some Positive Buzz about Honey Bee Numbers

AGWEB    By Alison Wedig    September 22, 2017

Honey bee numbers show a slight improvement this year over the same time in 2016, according to USDA. © Charlene FinckThe U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released a positive report on honey bee colonies this past spring. The number of commercial U.S. honey bee colonies was 2.89 million as of April 1--3% more colonies than during the same time frame in 2016. The total number of honey bee colonies lost was also lower in 2017. The number of colonies lost from April through June 2017 was 226,000 colonies, or 8%, compared to 330,000 colonies lost, or 12%, in 2016.

These are positive signs that honey bee numbers are stabilizing, but the much-needed pollinators aren’t out of the woods yet.

“It is hard to look at the colony numbers and get a clear snapshot on overall bee health; what the numbers and charts don’t show is how much harder the beekeepers are working to keep those bees alive,” says Jeff Harris, Mississippi State University Extension research apiculturist and honey bee expert.

The USDA’s research shows that varroa mites were the No. 1 stressor for operations in 2017, though their impact on the colonies is down 11% this year compared to April through June 2016. While mites may be causing less harm than in the past, honey bee colonies will always face threats from this serious pest and numerous other pressures.

“Bee health has been devastated for the last 30 years not only because the varroa mite was introduced, but because other diseases and pests were introduced including the tracheal mite, Nosema ceranae (a fungal disease) and the small hive beetle. Beekeepers must continually manage these diseases and pests to keep bees healthy,” Harris says.

To address disease and pest challenges, Bayer CropScience and other agricultural companies are doing research on bee health and working to create technologies that can help beekeepers on a daily basis. Relationships between manufacturers and beekeepers are vital to keeping lines of communication open, so the two parties can work together to address issues that impact bee health.

“We are making steady progress in our collective efforts to improve honey bee health; however, there remains much work to do to achieve a truly sustainable bee industry,” says Dick Rogers, Bayer North American Bee Care Program, principal scientist and beekeeper. Rogers continues, “Beekeeping has never been easy, but the introduction of this parasite (varroa mite) has forever changed the rules of the game, forcing beekeepers to cope with this formidable foe or face the loss of their livelihood altogether.”

To combat these issues Bayer has created a number of platforms to aid in the research of new products, as well as set a goal to help feed bees by planting forages in all 50 states. (

Lastly, it is also important to understand the relationship between farmers and beekeepers. Honey bees are a critical component to agricultural production through their pollination activities.  In 2010 research from Nick Calderone at Cornell University documented that managed honey bees hired by U.S. crop growers to pollinate crops contributed over $19 billion per year to U.S. agriculture.

Taking advantage of these symbiotic relationships that farmers and beekeepers share are important for securing future benefits for all of agriculture.

“This relationship was first noticed when varroa mites first came to the U.S. There were devastating losses of bee colonies that led to shortages in those needed for pollination.” Mississippi State’s Harris says. “Some crop failures that resulted caused people to see that honey bees are important and need to be a reliable pollination source for certain crops.”  

When bees are brought into agricultural environments, the bees risk exposure to pesticides that can kill or otherwise harm them.  Of course, Harris adds, farmers need these pesticides to protect their crops from insect pests or weeds that threaten them.

“Much effort has been aimed at improving how farmers and beekeepers work together to best protect honey bees without dramatically hurting farmers who also need to make a living.  The dialogue between beekeepers and farmers must continue indefinitely if we are to get the best protection for bees while also securing the best production from the agricultural crops that need their pollination,” Harris says.

Second Lady Karen Pence, Secretary Perdue Unveil Beehive at Vice President’s Residence, and Ask Public to Help Boost Pollinator Population

U.S. Department of Agriculture     Press Release     June 6, 2017

Secretary and Mrs. Perdue joined Second Lady Karen Pence to unveil a new beehive on the grounds of the Vice President's residence.Mrs. Pence and Secretary Perdue pointed out that a lack of supportive habitat near hives also contributes to the declines. Even if people don’t set up their own hives, they can help by planting bee-friendly flowers and flowering herbs in their yards and gardens. Honeybees particularly love wildflowers, lilacs, poppies and Black-eyed Susans, as well as herbs and vegetables like mint, sage, squash, tomatoes, oregano, and rosemary. In addition, bees get thirsty, and that placing birdbaths and small basins of water could help relieve their thirst.

Mrs. Pence installed a beehive in the Indiana governor’s residence in 2014, when Vice President Mike Pence served as the state’s governor. She said more than 80 percent of the land in Indiana is dedicated to agriculture, and its crops are very dependent upon pollinators.

The hive unveiled today is located on the grounds of the Vice President’s Residence. It is a triple-deep “Langstroth” beehive that holds traditional frames and was obtained from Eco Honeybees of Falls Church, VA. The hive contains almost 20,000 bees and continues to grow.


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Believe It Or Not, The Bees Are Doing Just Fine

The Washington Post    By Christopher Ingraham    October 10, 2016

You've probably heard the bad news by now that bees were recently added to the endangered species list for the first time. But if you're part of the 60 percent of people who share stories without actually reading them, you might have missed an important detail: namely, that the newly endangered bees are a handful of relatively obscure species who live only in Hawaii.

The bees you're more familiar with — the ones that buzz around your yard dipping into flowers, making honey, pollinating crops and generally keeping the world's food supply from collapsing? Those bees are doing just fine, according to data released by the USDA this year.

In 2015, there were 2.66 million commercial honey-producing bee colonies in the United States. That's down slightly from the 2.74 million colonies in 2014, which represented a two-decade high. The number of commercial bee colonies is still significantly higher than it was in 2006, when colony collapse disorder— the mass die-offs that began afflicting U.S. honeybee colonies — was first documented.


Look at how happy and healthy this little fuzzball is. (Brad Smith/Flickr)

Those 2.66 million colonies represent a greater number than just about any year since the late 1990s. How's that possible, considering all the die-offs we've been hearing about?

As I wrote last year, America's beekeepers are busy at work managing their colonies and replacing the ones that die off. Beekeepers have a number of ways to replenish their stock: They can split one healthy colony into two. They can also breed their own queen bees, which can be sold to other keepers in need of a queen to start a new colony.

For the 2017 season, 3 pounds of bees plus a queen will set you back about $100 or so.

The thing is, all of this colony-splitting and queen-breeding takes time, money and effort. It means that the main effects of colony collapse disorder aren't being felt by the bees themselves, but by the people who breed and manage them. Beekeeping is a business, after all.

“Honey bees are not about to go extinct,” Kim Kaplan, a researcher with the USDA, said in an email. “It is the beekeepers who are in danger, facing unsustainable economic losses."

The cost of those losses are currently getting passed on to the consumer. The average retail price of honey has roughly doubled since 2006, according to the National Honey Board. And pollination services, where keepers drive semi-trucks full of bees from farm to farm to pollinate crops, are getting more expensive, too.

Of course, the discussion above concerns  only commercial bees that are managed by humans and businesses. Wild bees — whether they're honeybees or one of our 4,000 other native bee species — face different difficulties. If those species suffer die-offs, there's nobody around to breed new queens and help them recover. Wild bees are on their own.

Recent research has shown that the use of certain insecticides called neonicotinoids has been linked to declines in wild bee populations. But assessing the true magnitude of the effect is difficult, because it's a lot harder to survey wild bee populations than domesticated ones.

For now, the placement of seven bee species into the Endangered Species List might be less of a sign that America's bees are in dire straits and more of an indicator that our other 3,993 bee species are probably doing fine.

By and large, our domesticated honey producers appear to be doing just fine, too.

U.S. Agencies Need Better Data to Protect Bees; Watchdog Says

Science AAAS    By Puneet Kollipara   March 15, 2016

Federal agencies need to patch some scientific holes in their ongoing efforts to protect struggling bee populations, according to the nonpartisan watchdog agency of Congress. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) lacks a plan for monitoring populations of certain non–honey bee species, a new Government Accountability Office (GAO) audit argues. And the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) needs to collect data on pesticide mixtures to more accurately assess the risks bees face from the chemicals, GAO says.

Although USDA and EPA have taken “numerous actions to protect the health of honey bees and other species of bees,” beekeepers “continue to report rates of colony losses that they say are not economically sustainable,” the GAO audit says. “Finding solutions to address the wide range of factors that may affect bee health …will be a complex undertaking that may take many years and require advances in science and changes in agricultural and land use practices.”

The 11 March report highlights potential vulnerabilities in how the federal government is acting on recommendations unveiled last May by a multiagency task force convened by President Barack Obama. That task force called “for action, but the GAO report calls for monitored, responsible action,” wrote entomologist Marla Spivak of the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, in an email. “I’m happy to see this … report and hope it is heeded.”

For about a decade, beekeepers have reported losing an unusually high number of their colonies each winter. Although scientists are still trying to pin down what’s behind the trend, researchers and agencies say it could stem from a combination of factors, from habitat loss to pathogens to pesticide exposure. The problem carries major implications not just for ecosystems but also for humans—bees and other pollinators help produce one-third of people’s food, government figures suggest.

The White House task force identified a series of policies that agencies should undertake to protect bees and other pollinators from pesticides and pathogens, preserve bee habitats, and promote bee-friendly plants. The strategy sets a number of targets, including cutting overwintering bee colony losses to 15% (from roughly 30% in recent years) by 2025. And itidentified several areas of research that agencies should pursue, ranging from bee population and health monitoring, to environmental stressors, to bee conservation methods.

Moreover, the task force told agencies to make sure that wild and native bees weren’t left in the lurch. The task force had called on USDA to monitor populations of native and wild bees, not just managed honey bees. But the GAO audit found that USDA still lacks a plan to monitor non–honey bee populations.

In response, USDA Chief Scientist Catherine Woteki told GAO that it would be “physically and fiscally impossible” to track the roughly 4000 North American species of wild and native bees But she said it would be “informative” to monitor a smaller number of “sentinel species,” each of which could serve as a proxy for multiple bee species. She also said that citizen science could play a role in USDA’s bee monitoring efforts.

At EPA, the White House task force had suggested that the agency try developing ways to assess how mixtures of pesticides encountered in the real world affect bees, instead of solely assessing one compound at a time, as the agency does now. But the GAO audit suggests that EPA doesn’t yet have data on the most common pesticide mixtures and “does not know how it would identify them.” Data on the most common mixtures “are available and could be collected from farmers, pesticide manufacturers, and others,” GAO said, adding that the assessment of mixtures could help EPA “determine whether they pose greater risks than the sum of the risks posed by individual pesticides.”

GAO also suggested that EPA look into obtaining toxicity data from pesticide makers on how pesticides affect non–honey bee species.

Although EPA has in recent years updated its pesticide risk assessment methods to factor in a new suite of bee safety tests, the agency says it still doesn’t have the necessary standardized scientific procedures to quantitatively assess pesticides’ risks to non–honey bees or the effects of mixtures. Some new methods for measuring pesticides’ short-term toxicity to bumblebees and mason bees may soon be ready, EPA toxics chief James Jones told GAO.

Some mixtures may be useful to identify, he suggested. But many could be challenging to assess, he suggested, at least for now, as their formulations might vary from area to area. Another challenge is that the ingredients might affect bees through different mechanisms that no single test can fully account for.

The EPA said in a statement that it was still reviewing the GAO findings. USDA’s media office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

At least one environmental group swiftly reacted to the GAO audit. “For far too long, the EPA has turned a blind eye to the impacts of pesticide mixtures,” Lori Ann Burd, of the Center for Biological Diversity’s Portland, Oregon, office, said in a statement. “I hope this report will force the agency to finally take the commonsense measure of studying the effects of pesticides in real-world conditions.”

USDA Inspector General to Investigate Alleged Censorship of Scientists

  MPR    By Dan Gunderson   February 12, 2016

Entomologist Jonathan Lundgren filed a whistleblower complaint alleging the USDA retaliated against him because of his research on the adverse effects of neonicotinoid insecticides on bees and monarch butterflies. Dan Gunderson | MPR News 2015The U.S. Department of Agriculture's inspector general said Friday that she plans to investigate alleged censorship of agency scientists working on controversial issues.

USDA Inspector General Phyllis Fong told a U.S. House subcommittee her office will soon open a broad investigation following a "significant volume" of complaints from the department's scientists.

"We have been aware and have been made aware of the concerns of research scientists," she said. "This is an issue that is very troubling and we certainly take it very seriously."

A South Dakota scientist recently claimed he was punished for talking about his research on neonicotinoid insecticides. That class of insecticide has been linked to bee deaths. 

• Related: USDA whistleblower launches new bee research effort 

Late last year the group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) sued the USDA over what it called a weak scientific integrity policy. It wanted the USDA to offer its scientists more protection.

"The fact that the IG is receiving 'a significant volume' of complaints from USDA scientists indicates that a major problem exists," said Jeff Ruch, PEER's executive director.

Ruch said the USDA recently obtained a 60-day extension to respond to the group's lawsuit.


USDA Conducts Nationwide Honeybee Survey

 Turlock Journal   By Alysson Aredas    December 31, 2015

The United States Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Service will embark on its second month gathering information on honey bee colonies across the nation in hopes of promoting honey bee health and reducing colony losses during winter to no more than 15 percent within 10 years.

For these surveys, NASS will reach out to beekeepers and farmers to determine the number and health of honey bee colonies, honey production and stocks, and the cost to farmers of pollination services. Survey results will be used to develop baseline data and additional goal metrics for winter, summer and total annual colony loss.

“These new data will be crucial to measuring and understanding the current state of the pollinator industry in the United States,” said NASS Administrator Joseph Reilly. “Honey beekeepers are encouraged to participate in the surveys so that policy makers have a robust data source to make informed decisions and protect our struggling pollinators.”

Pollinators such as honey bees are critical to the nation’s economy, food security and environmental health. Honey bee pollination alone adds more than $15 billion in value to agricultural crops each year, and helps to provide ample fruits, nuts, and vegetables.

Despite their importance, honey bees are struggling. Last year, the ninth annual national survey of honey bee losses revealed that approximately 40 percent of honey bee colonies died over a 12-month period from April 2014 to April 2015. For beekeepers, this decline threatened the viability of their livelihoods and the essential pollination services their bees provide to agriculture.

A significant factor in this drastic reduction is Colony Collapse Disorder, which the USDA Agricultural Research Services defined as a “dead colony with no adult bees or dead bee bodies, but with a live queen and usually honey and immature bees still present.” As of yet, no scientific cause for CCD has been proven.

Beekeepers will receive two surveys from NASS, one of which is the existing Bee and Honey Inquiry, which surveys beekeepers about honey production, price, and stocks, but not colony health. The second survey will be used by NASS to publish state-level estimates on key topics, including number of colonies, colonies lost, colonies added, and colonies affected by certain stressors. The results of the surveys are slated for release in March and May, respectively.

Additionally, NASS will survey farmers about crops pollinated, number of colonies needed for pollination, and the cost for those colonies. NASS plans to publish those survey results in December 2016.

These surveys and corresponding data are part of the National Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators, which is prepared by the Pollinator Health Task Force and co-chaired by USDA. The strategy is a comprehensive plan to work across the Federal government and with partners to address the research, education and management challenges that must be overcome to sustain healthy pollinator populations. One of the three overarching goals of the National Strategy is to reduce honey bee colony loss and to develop additional baseline data using the NASS data.


Bee Expert: USDA Punished Me For Research on Pesticides

MPR News   By Dan Gunderson   October 28, 2015

A top federal bee scientist from South Dakota says he's being punished for publicizing work on pesticides and pollinators.

Jonathan Lundgren's research found bees and monarch butterflies can be harmed by a widely used class of insecticides. In a whistleblower case filed Wednesday, the United States Agriculture Department entomologist alleges he faced retaliation because of his research.

"Once he started publishing this work, he went from golden boy to pariah, and that's what this case is about," said Jeff Ruch, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, which is representing Lundgren in his complaint to a federal whistleblower protection board.

Lundgren's 11-year career at USDA appeared stellar. He had excellent performance reviews. USDA even named him its Outstanding Early Career Research Scientist in 2011.

The complaint says that all changed when Lundgren began to study how neonicotinoid insecticides affect bees and other beneficial insects. His research and work travel fell under intense scrutiny and he was suspended for violating agency protocols.

Ruch contends that pressure from the pesticide industry has led USDA to stifle scientists like Lundgren. He had no evidence, but said the complaint will let attorneys seek information and interview USDA officials about the Lundgren case. He believes that work will prove USDA targeted Lundgren because of his neonicotinoid research.

Those pesticides are among the most widely used in the world and are used heavily on farm fields and in backyards.

But they're under fire for contributing to an international decline in bee populations. Neonicotinoid insecticides are systemic. Plants take up the chemical along with nutrients. It's in the leaves, flowers and pollen.

Lundgren claims his trouble started in early 2014 when he began to talk publicly about negative effects of neonicotinoids. He reviewed a study by the Center for Food Safety. The study was critical of overuse of neonicotinoids on crops. He also did media interviews about the topic.

Lundgren declined an on-the-record interview, saying he fears additional retaliation. He alleges a USDA official asked him to stop talking publicly about the pesticide.

A USDA spokesperson said that while the agency can't discuss individual cases it takes scientific integrity seriously. "We fully review allegations of wrong-doing and make the results of those reviews available to the public online. USDA, he added, has "procedures for staff to report any perceived interference with their work, seek resolution, and receive protection from recourse for doing so."

In September 2014, Lundgren filed an internal complaint alleging USDA was violating its scientific integrity policy by retaliating because of the content of his research.

"Within one week of these late-March press interviews and the release of the CFS study, improper reprisal, interference and hindrance of my research and career began in earnest," according to the internal complaint.

He said "national program staff" removed his research objective examining pesticide risk. Instead, the goals focused on "strategies to improve diversity and health of beneficial insects," a change he said makes examining pesticide risk risky since it would "no longer be officially supported by USDA."

USDA found his scientific integrity complaint was without merit. Lundgren appealed. The appeal is awaiting a USDA response.

Lundgren was suspended in October 2014 for three days after USDA investigators found emails among his research staff which included off-color jokes.

Entomologist Jonathan Lundgren examined a pollinator food plot with colleague Christina Mogren, a postdoctoral researcher, near Brookings, S.D., in July. Dan Gunderson | MPR News file

Ruch says no employees had complained about the emails and employees in Lundgren's lab wrote letters of support for their boss.

"This is a scientist who has many prestigious journals publishing his work. He is invited to make presentations both nationally and internationally," Ruch said. "If it was not the sensitive nature of his research this would be somebody they would be promoting, not on the verge of terminating."

Earlier this year Lundgren again ran afoul of USDA supervisors.

He wrote a paper on research that showed neonicotinoid insecticides killed or stunted growth of monarch butterfly larvae. Monarch populations have plummeted in recent years because of habitat loss. Lundgren's research showed milkweed plants growing near farm fields treated with the insecticide could harm monarch larvae.

He believed he had permission from USDA to publish the paper.

Lundgren was interviewed about his research for an MPR News story in February. The whistleblower complaint says that interview prompted a sharp response two weeks later from his supervisor in Brookings, S.D.

Lundgren says he was told USDA considered his research "sensitive" and requiring additional layers of approval. The paper was published in March.

In early March, Lundgren traveled to speak at a National Academy of Sciences gathering and to an agricultural group in Pennsylvania.

While he was traveling to the meetings, he received a message saying his travel was not approved because he failed to get a required supervisor's signature.

He was considered absent without leave and ordered to return immediately to South Dakota.

Ruch said the travel paperwork mistake is one often overlooked at USDA.

In early August USDA area supervisor John McMurtry wrote to Lundgren imposing a 14-day unpaid suspension for "blatant disregard of Agency rules and regulations."

McMurtry said Lundgren's behavior "suggests a low potential for rehabilitation."

According to an internal USDA document, Lundgren was told that "additional misconduct will not be tolerated and may result in disciplinary action up to and including your removal from the Federal service."

Ruch says that that threat led to the whistleblower complaint to the Federal Merit Systems Protection Board.

Ruch's group says the charges are "patently exaggerated, and the punishment is disproportionate to the alleged wrongdoing." Ruch also believes the case will show the conflicts were about the research, not rule violations.

"There were repeated expressions about the sensitivity of the subject matter that made it clear there was concern that went much higher than (USDA's) Agricultural Research Service office in South Dakota," he said. "We believe that there was communication among high level managers of USDA that predetermined what they were going to do."

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Oxalic Acid Registration Comments Wanted by EPA

BEE CULTURE: CATCH THE BUZZ         February 5, 2015

 By Alan Harman

   There’s great news for beekeepers with the U.S. Department of Agriculture seeking approval for the in-hive use of oxalic acid dihydrate to control Varroa mites.
   It’s a treatment long used in Europe that kills up to 97% of mites in a hive,
   The government’s Federal Register lists an application for Environmental Protection Agency approval for the product, long successfully used in Europe in the colony against Varroa.
   The notice is signed by Robert NcNally, director of the Biopesticides and Pollution Prevention Division of the Office of Pesticide Programs.
    A spokeswoman at the EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs confirmed receipt of the USDA application.
   Approval of the application would give U.S. beekeepers a new weapon in their fight against Varroa.
  European beekeepers say they successfully use vaporized oxalic acid, or a 3.2% solution of oxalic acid in sugar syrup, as a miticide against Varroa.
   It can be used in both the liquid form and as crystals that can be evaporated by electric heater pans.
   Oxalic acid had been successfully used by beekeepers in the United Kingdom for several decades to kill Varroa when Sussex University conducted a study to determine the effectiveness of different doses and application methods of oxalic acid on mite and bee mortality.
   The experiment involved 110 hives comparing three application methods and three different doses that was completed in 2014. Hives were treated in early January 2013 when they had no brood.
   Oxalic acid does not kill Varroa in sealed cells, but rather kills mites carried on the bodies of workers and also those crawling in cells not yet capped.
   The researchers determined the proportion of mites killed by washing the mites off a sample of about 300 workers bees immediately before and after 10 days of treatment with oxalic acid.
   They also determined the number of bees killed at the time of treatment, together with hive mortality and strength four months later in spring.
   The university says the results came to a clear and encouraging conclusion. Application of oxalic acid via sublimation, where it is applied in its pure form by vaporizing the crystals with a special heated tool, was superior to application as a solution via either spraying or dribbling.
   Sublimation gave a greater kill of Varroa at a lower oxalic acid level and showed no increase in bee mortality. In fact, four months after treatment, the hives treated via the sublimation had more brood than the 10 untreated colonies.
   The sublimation method is quick and easy, as the hives do not need to be opened.
   To confirm the results, the sublimation technique was retested a year later in broodless honey bee colonies.
   “An amazing 97% of the Varroa were killed by using 2.25 grams of oxalic acid per hive, and colony survival three months later in spring was close to 100%,” the university says.
   It says beekeepers only need to carry out this treatment once a year because it reduced the number of mites so dramatically it takes them a long time to build back up again.
   The Federal Register notice says the application potentially affects those involved in crop and animal production, food manufacturing and pesticide production.
   Comments must be received by the EPA on or before March 6.
   Oxalic acid dihydrate is a colorless, odorless, crystalline solid. It is potentially fatal if swallowed or inhaled. It can also cause discoloration, irritation and burns of the skin as well as permanent damage to the eyes.
   One operating manual says all employees who handle this material should be trained to handle it safely.
   “Areas in which this compound is used should be wiped down periodically so that this substance is not allowed to accumulate,” it says.
    In Canada, the British Columbia Ministry of Agriculture says oxalic acid dihydrate should only be applied in late fall when the colony has no brood. Any open brood in the colony is likely to be killed by oxalic acid.
   “Even though the product is not as volatile as formic acid, always wear rubber gloves and safety glasses when handling the product,” it says “Avoid inhalation of vapors.”
   The ministry says it should be applied only once.
   “Oxalic acid can be applied at cool temperatures, either through vaporization (crystals heated and converted directly into a gas vapor) or trickling an acid-sugar syrup solution onto the bees.
   One European expert goes even further.
   “It cannot be stressed too strongly that oxalic acid is an aggressive substance and needs to be treated with respect,” he says. “Acid resistant gloves and goggles should be worn and an apron of the type used by mortuary attendants, along with wellington boots that have the tops covered by gaiters so that any falling liquid cannot fall into the boot.
   “A respirator that has specialized organic acid filtering will be required in cases where the acid is sprayed or vaporized.”
   The EPA is also seeking comment on an application from Certis USA L.L.C. to market a product called BmJ WG with a fungicide that claims to reduce plant viral infections and Bacillus mycoides isolate. It is intended for use on almonds, citrus, cole crops, cucurbits, fruiting vegetables, grapes, legumes, lettuce, pecans, pome fruits, potatoes, spinach, and sugar.

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USDA Announces the Availability of $16 Million in Funds to Support Food Production, Crops, Livestock (Bees are Livestock)

USDA   February 3, 2015

WASHINGTON, Feb. 3, 2015 –The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) today announced the availability of more than $16 million in funding to support research, education and Extension efforts to improve food production and increase food security, defined as regular access to affordable, nutritious food. NIFA is funding the grants through the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) Food Security program.

"Agricultural production is inextricably linked to the health of our nation, and every American deserves access to safe, nutrient-rich food," said Sonny Ramaswamy, NIFA director. "This funding will increase food security by improving agricultural production systems at the regional and national levels and by encouraging diverse agricultural production."

The goal of the AFRI Food Security challenge area in 2015 is to develop more sustainable, productive, and economically viable plant and animal production systems. This program will also develop regionally-adapted crop...


USDA to Provide $4 Million for Honey Bee Habitat

The following is brought to us by ABJ Extra.  Subscribe to the American Bee Journal and sign up for ABJ Extra 

Announcement Builds on Previous Investment in Michigan, Minnesota,
North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin

WASHINGTON, Oct.29, 2014 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today that  more than $4 million in technical and financial assistance will be provided to help farmers and ranchers in the Midwest improve the health of honey bees, which play an important role in crop production.

“The future of America’s food supply depends on honey bees, and this effort is one way USDA is helping improve the health of honey bee populations,” Vilsack said. “Significant progress has been made in understanding the factors that are associated with Colony Collapse Disorder and the overall health of honey bees, and this funding will allow us to work with farmers and ranchers to apply that knowledge over a broader area.”

An estimated $15 billion worth of crops is pollinated by honey bees, including more than 130 fruits and vegetables. USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is focusing the effort on five Midwestern states: Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin. This announcement renews and expands a successful $3 million pilot investment that was announced earlier this year and continues to have high levels of interest.  This effort also contributes to the June 2014 Presidential Memorandum – Creating a Federal Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators, which directs USDA to expand the acreage and forage value in its conservation programs.

Funding will be provided to producers through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). Applications are due Friday, November 21.

From June to September, the Midwest is home to more than 65 percent of the commercially managed honey bees in the country. It is a critical time when bees require abundant and diverse forage across broad landscapes to build up hive strength for the winter.

The assistance announced today will provide guidance and support to farmers and ranchers to implement conservation practices that will provide safe and diverse food sources for honey bees. For example, appropriate cover crops or rangeland and pasture management may provide a benefit to producers by reducing erosion, increasing the health of their soil, inhibiting invasive species, and providing quality forage and habitat for honey bees and other pollinators.

This year, several NRCS state offices are setting aside additional funds for similar efforts, including California – where more than half of all managed honey bees in the U.S. help pollinate almond groves and other agricultural lands – as well as Ohio and Florida.

The 2014 Farm Bill kept pollinators as a high priority, and these conservation efforts are one way USDA is working to help improve pollinator habitat. 

USDA is actively pursuing solutions to the multiple problems affecting honey bee health. The Agricultural Research Service (ARS) maintains four laboratories across the country conducting research into all aspects of bee genetics, breeding, biology and physiology, with special focus on bee nutrition, control of pathogens and parasites, the effects of pesticide exposure and the interactions between each of these factors. The National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) supports bee research efforts in Land Grant Universities. The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) conducts national honey bee pest and disease surveys and provides border inspections to prevent new invasive bee pests from entering the U.S. The Farm Service Agency (FSA) and NRCS work on improved forage and habitat for bees through programs such as the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and EQIP. The Forest Service is restoring, improving, and/or rehabilitating pollinator habitat on the national forests and grasslands and conducting research on pollinators. Additionally, the Economic Research Service (ERS) is currently examining the direct economic costs of the pollinator problem and the associated indirect economic impacts, and the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) conducts limited surveys of honey production, number of colonies, price, and value of production which provide some data essential for research by the other agencies.

For more on technical and financial assistance available through conservation programs, or a local USDA service center 

New Organic Beekeeping Regs Coming Soon

USDA/AMS     Publication ID: Spring 2014            June 18, 2014

Title: National Organic Program, Organic Apiculture Practice Standard, NOP-12-0063

Abstract: This action proposes to amend the USDA organic regulations to reflect an October 2010 recommendation submitted to the Secretary by the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) concerning the production of organic apicultural (i.e. beekeeping) products. Instead of continuing to allow certifying agents to certify apiculture to the organic livestock standards, this action would establish certification standards specifically for organic bees and bee products. The scope of this action includes provisions for: transition to organic apiculture production, replacement bees, hive construction forage areas, supplemental feeding health care, pest control practices, and an organic apiculture system plan. This action would also add a new scope of certification and accreditation to the USDA organic regulations. This action does not regulate the use of bees for pollination of organic crops.

Read at:

Let's Watch Bees!

Above USDA Headquarters: Bees are Abuzzing    May 16, 2014

The People's Garden Apiary located on the roof of the Jamie L. Whitten Building at USDA Headquarters in Washington, DC is home to approximately 40,000 Italian honey bees. You can #USDABeeWatch any day of the week by tuning into our live bee cam.

This time of year our hive is bursting with activity! The worker bees that you see are all female and are busy collecting nectar and pollen to convert into honey. Spring time in the Nation's Capital is a major time for honey production by honey bee colonies.

The activities of a colony vary with the seasons. Join the conversation about bees and other pollinators by using hashtag #USDABeeWatch.

About The People's Garden Apiary

The first beehive was installed on Earth Day in 2010 and a second hive was later added in 2011. USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Bee Research Lab in Beltsville, Maryland helps keep these colonies of bees strong and healthy so they can pollinate crops growing in the Headquarters People's Garden and neighboring landscapes. An added bonus is the delicious honey, approximately 18 gallons worth, extracted from the hive since 2010.

The beehives consist of wooden box-like sections stacked on top of each other. Each box (or super) holds 8-10 wooden frames, each containing a thin sheet of wax foundation. The bees build their combs on these foundations.

Honey is stored in the combs in the upper parts of the hive. When the bees have filled the combs in the upper section with honey and covered them with wax caps, the beekeeper takes them away to extract the honey. You can take a virtual tour of the People's Garden ApiaryThis is an external link or third-party site outside of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) website. for a look inside the hive and the fascinating world of beekeeping.

Honey Bees

Bee Hive.Honey bees are not native to the United States. The scientific name for honey bee is Apis mellifera. Since humans first began keeping honey bees, their principal aim has been the harvest of honey. Beekeepers select the appropriate type of honey bee based on temperament, physical characteristics, disease resistance, and productivity.

Italian honey bees were selected for the People's Garden Apiary because they are most often used in commercial beekeeping in the United States. These bees have a relatively gentle disposition and are good honey producers. They are not the most resistant to disease, but they excel in most other areas.

There have been some queen survivorship issues in both of the People's Garden colonies, which actually mirrors what's going on in the rest of the country. Queen health is an issue for everyone who buys queens, commercial or hobbyist. The exact underlying reasons for poor queen survivorship is unknown, but the ARS lab is actively researching this problem.

Why Care About Pollinators?

Pollinators need us and we need pollinators. Honey bees are responsible for pollinating more than 100 crops and one out of every three bites of food Americans eat. These foods give our diet diversity, flavor, and nutrition. Sadly, the number of native bees and domesticated bee populations are declining due to disease, adverse weather and other conditions.

The People's Garden Initiative encourages everyone to take an active role in saving the honey bee and other pollinators by adopting pollinator-friendly land management practices at home and within your local community. Remember: no bees, no honey.

How to Garden for Pollinators

A bee on a group of wildflowers.Increase the number of pollinators in your area by choosing plants that provide essential habitat and food sources for birds, bats, butterflies, moths, flies, beetles, wasps, small mammals, and most importantly, bees. Supporting pollinators is not hard to do. Start by following these simple steps to create a pollinator-friendly garden:


  • Go Native - plant native plant species
  • Bee Showy - flowers should bloom in your garden throughout the growing season
  • Bee Bountiful - plant big patches of each plant species
  • Bee Diverse - plant a diversity of flowering species that supply an abundance of pollen and nectar
  • Bee Chemical Free - limit or eliminate use of pesticides

Watch this webinar on Pollinators for Your GardenThis is an external link or third-party site outside of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) website. for expert advice on how to create a successful pollinator garden.

How can you find pollinator-friendly native plants for your garden?

The Pollinator Partnership offers 32 different planting guides to improve pollinator habitat, each one tailored to a specific ecoregion in the United States. Each guide is filled with an abundance of native plant and pollinator information. Enter your zip codeThis is an external link or third-party site outside of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) website. to find your ecoregion planting guide and download it for free.

Read more, Learn more, Watch live:

Thanks to The Pollinator Partnership for sharing the link.


USDA & EPA Release New Report on Honey Bee Health

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

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

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

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

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

Key findings include:

Parasites and Disease Present Risks to Honey Bees:

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

Increased Genetic Diversity is Needed:

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

Poor Nutrition Among Honey Bee Colonies:

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

There is a Need for Improved Collaboration and Information Sharing:

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

Additional Research is Needed to Determine Risks Presented by Pesticides:

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

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

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

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

To view the report, which represents the consensus of the scientific community studying honey bees, please visit:

The Sweet Truth Behind Honey

The National Honey Board features The Sweet Truth Behind Honey.

Honey has been in the news recently, covering topics from its source to its authenticity. The National Honey Board (NHB), a federal research and promotion board with United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) oversight, wants to clarify any misconceptions.

Honey bees collect nectar from flowering plants and use it to make honey. Honey is then collected by beekeepers from the beehives. The journey from harvesting to distributing honey is multifaceted.

From beehive to supermarket and finally reaching the table, the harvesting of honey is a compelling story. It's an ancient artisanal craft that brings a natural wonder to households around the world. With more than 300 varietals of honey, ranging greatly in flavor and appearance, honey is a unique ingredient that helps home cooks and professional chefs create countless recipes in the kitchen.

This beloved ingredient also provides an all-natural energy boost, as well as acts as a natural cough suppressant and an effective skin moisturizer, nourishing the body inside and out.

The NHB is utilizing industry, culinary and educational resources to produce “The Story of Honey,” which captures the many benefits of honey, while shining light on harvesting honey from honey bee to table. Read the full press release.

Bee Status - Dan Cummings

Brought to us by Project Apis m. Posted January 16, 2013 by Dan Cummings

Many feel hive quality going into almond bloom last year, February 2012,  was the best it has been for several years.  The chart below, showing percentages of honey bee colony winter losses, would certainly seem to support that observation.  The explanation may be the abnormally warm winter experienced during 2011/2012, indeed the fourth warmest winter in U.S. history.  In an article by Kim Kaplan published by the USDA, Dr. Jeff Pettis was quoted, “A warm winter means less stress on bee colonies and may help them be more resistant to pathogens, parasites and other problems.” Click here.

Another prominent bee researcher commented to me that bees emerged from last winter indeed relatively robust but also with bigger varroa mite loads than usual. 


Learn about Project Apis m.  View (new Youtube video) 


Better Bee Health Begins and ends with Science, Not Soundbites

The Hill's Congress Blog    By Barbara Glenn (CropLife America)  10/24/12

Earlier this month, scientists, regulators, beekeepers and others gathered in Alexandria, Va., for the National Stakeholders Conference on Honey Bee Health. The meeting, co-sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), focused on the latest findings and information regarding challenges to honey bee health around the world. 
In recent years, honey bee losses in the United States, as measured by beekeepers each spring, have been higher than historical averages. Although there is much speculation as to the reasons for this decline in honey bee health, many causative factors may be involved and scientists from government, academia and industry are...