The Plants the Help Monarchs Also Help Honey Bees

CATCH THE BUZZ  By Candace Fallon   December 15, 2016

Candace Fallon
Senior Conservation Biologist
Endangered Species Program

Monarchs are in decline across North America. With milkweed loss in the east identified as a major contributing factor to this decline, the national call to action has understandably focused primarily on planting milkweeds, which are the required host plants for monarch caterpillars, and a favorite for honey bees, too. Yet while restoring the millions of milkweed plants that have been lost is certainly an important strategy, monarchs need more than milkweed to support them throughout the year. Adult monarchs need nectar to fuel them during spring migration and breeding and to build up stores of fat which sustain them during fall migration and winter.

There are many sources of information about which species of native milkweeds are best for your region, but information on which nectar plants are best for monarchs has not been available for large areas of the U.S. Working with the Monarch Joint Venture and the National Wildlife Federation, the Xerces Society has created a series of nectar plant lists for the continental U.S. based on a database of nearly 24,000 monarch nectaring observations. Each of the 15 regional guides highlights species that are commercially available, are native to and widely found in the region, and are known to be hardy or relatively easy to grow in a garden setting.

Read more about this project at  or find a nectar plant guide for your region here

These plant lists are works-in-progress and benefit from your help. You can submit additional monarch nectaring observations via our online survey. We are grateful to the many different researchers and monarch enthusiasts across the country who have already contributed to our database – thank you! 

To Save Monarchs We Need More Than Just Milkweed

Xerces Society  By Candace Fallon   December 7, 2016

Candace Fallon
Senior Conservation Biologist
Endangered Species Program

Tall blazing star (Liatris aspera) was the plant with the most records of nectaring 
monarchs of any plant in the database. (Photo: Joshua Mayer/Flickr) 

The message is out: Monarchs are in decline across North America. The loss of milkweed plants due to extensive herbicide use and changes in farming practices, such as the widespread adoption of herbicide-resistant crops, has been identified as a major contributing factor of monarch’s decline in the eastern U.S. Disease, climate change, widespread insecticide use, and loss or degradation of nectar-rich habitat may also be contributing to declines. A memorandum issued by President Obama and subsequent U.S. national strategy to protect monarchs and other pollinators, in addition to a recent petition to list monarchs under the Endangered Species Act, has highlighted their plight and led to a surge of interest in protecting these amazing animals and their phenomenal fall migration.

The national call to action has focused primarily on planting milkweeds, which are the required host plants for monarch caterpillars, a simple and effective way to support monarch conservation. However, it is important to remember that milkweed may not be appropriate in every landscape. For example, we do not recommend planting milkweed in areas such as coastal California, where it did not historically occur.

While restoring the millions of milkweed plants that have been lost is certainly an important strategy, monarchs need more than milkweed to support them throughout the year. Adult monarchs need nectar to fuel them during spring migration and breeding and to build up stores of fat which sustain them during fall migration and winter. Too few nectar plants in the landscape may reduce the number of monarchs that successfully arrive at overwintering sites in the fall.

There are many sources of information about which species of native milkweeds are best for your region (including from the Xerces Society), but information on which nectar plants are best for monarchs has not been available for large areas of the U.S. To address this need, the Xerces Society has created a series of nectar plant lists based on a database of monarch nectaring observations compiled from a wide variety of sources, including published and technical reports, research datasets, and personal communications with monarch researchers, lepidopterists, botanists, and other experts. This database now houses nearly 24,000 reported monarch nectaring observations on 358 native plant species.

Working with the Monarch Joint Venture and the National Wildlife Federation, the Xerces Society used this database to develop monarch nectar plant guides for all regions of the continental U.S.  Each of the 15 guides highlights species that are commercially available, are native to and widely found in the region, and are known to be hardy or relatively easy to grow in a garden setting—although, as with any plant choice, we encourage you to use additional references when making final species determinations for your location. 


 Second place in the “Nectar Plant Top 10” went to bearded beggarticks (Bidens aristosa),
which is native in eastern and central North America. It blooms in late summer,
just in time for the monarchs fall migration. (Photo: Dennis Burnette) 

Whenever possible, we included species that were reported by multiple sources or were noted to be exceptional monarch magnets. Each list is also tailored to include only species that bloom during the times of year that monarchs are expected to be in each region. Only native species were included. (These plant lists were compiled using the best available data, but we expect to update them as new information is available. You can help us improve them by submitting your own monarch nectaring observations via our online survey.)

These guides are geared toward gardeners and landscape designers but will also be useful for land managers who are undertaking large-scale monarch restoration projects. And importantly, the plants on these lists will attract not only monarchs but also many other pollinators, from butterflies and moths to bees and hummingbirds.


Nectar Plant Top 10: The ten flowers in this table are those with the greatest number of recorded observations of nectaring monarchs—but be sure to check the nectar plant list for your region to find out which plants are the best for where you live!

Hawaiian Bees are First on US Endangered Species List

BBC News    October 1, 2016

Seven species of yellow-faced bee native to Hawaii have become the first bees to be added to the US federal list of endangered and threatened species.

The yellow-faced bee was once abundant across Hawaii. APConservationists say the bees face extinction through habitat loss, wildfires and the introduction of non-native insects and plants.

The bees are crucial to pollinating some of Hawaii's endangered plants.

The listing follows years of study by researchers including the Xerces Societyconservation group.

Sarina Jepson, director of endangered species and aquatic programmes for Xerces, said although yellow-faced bees are found elsewhere in the world, the species now under protection are native only to Hawaii and pollinate indigenous plants.

While those species could potentially be pollinated by other bees, she said many could become extinct if the native bees were allowed to die off.

She told the Associated Press news agency that threats to the bees include feral pigs and invasive ants.

The bees had also suffered loss of habitat due to wildfires, invasive plants and land development, especially in some coastal areas, she added.

Hawaii-based entomologist Karl Magnacca, who worked with Xerces, said it had taken almost 10 years to achieve the listing.

"It's good to see it to finally come to fruition," he said.

Pollinator-Friendly Plant Lists

Xerces Society    

United States: Recommended native plants that are highly attractive to pollinators such as native bees, honey bees, butterflies, moths, and hummingbirds, and are well-suited for small-scale plantings in gardens, on business and school campuses, in urban greenspaces, and in farm field borders.

Plant lists are available to download below in PDF format at:

5 Tips for Better Insect Photography

The Xerces Society Blog   By Clay Bolt (Natural History Photographer)   February 8, 2016

As a natural history photographer who specializes in photographing insects and other small creatures, I sometimes wonder why everyone isn’t as obsessed with the little things in life as I am. When I peer through my camera’s viewfinder and look into the eyes of a jumping spider, or marvel at the amazing structure of a bee’s wing, I am transported into an incredible, miniature world that is more...

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Bees Threatened By A Common Pesticide, EPA Finds

Los Angeles Times    By Geoffrey Mohan   January 6, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Better Almonds for Bees

The Xerces Society           December 10, 2014

Working with several major food companies, and one of the largest almond producers in the world, Xerces is developing a game-changing strategy for almond production right now in California's Central Valley.

Between much needed rain showers this week, our California habitat specialist Jessa Kay Cruz, is managing a project to install nearly 5 miles of hedgerows and wildflower meadows throughout a 1,000 acre almond orchard. Thousands of flowering, drought-tolerant, native California shrubs are being planted, and hundreds of thousands of wildflower seeds are being sown to create nectar-rich habitat to support the bees that pollinate almonds.

All of this is just step one. In the year ahead we will be installing a first-of-its kind wildflower cover crop system under the trees, developing reduced-risk pest management strategies, and expanding this model to more and more orchards. The net effect, we hope, will be a better landscape for bees in California's almond country.

The Xerces Society

The Xerces Society: After 90% Decline Federal Protection Sought for Monarch Butterfly

The Xerces Society    August 27, 2014

Genetically Engineered Crops Are Major Driver in Population Crash

WASHINGTON— The Center for Biological Diversity and Center for Food Safety as co-lead petitioners joined by the Xerces Society and renowned monarch scientist Dr. Lincoln Brower filed a legal petition today to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service seeking Endangered Species Act protection for monarch butterflies, which have declined by more than 90 percent in under 20 years. During the same period it is estimated that these once-common iconic orange and black butterflies may have lost more than 165 million acres of habitat — an area about the size of Texas — including nearly a third of their summer breeding grounds.

“Monarchs are in a deadly free fall and the threats they face are now so large in scale that Endangered Species Act protection is needed sooner rather than later, while there is still time to...


Saving the Monarchs

Bug Squad - Happenings in the insect world      By Kathy Keatley Garvey    August 26, 2014

The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation issued news today that is both disturbing and hopeful.

Disturbing in that the monarch butterfly population (Danaus plexippus) has declined by more than 90 percent in under 20 years.

Hopeful in that the monarch may receive federal protection through the Endangered Species Act.

The Xerces Society, the Center for Biological Diversity,  the...


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...

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Scientists Release Landmark 'Worldwide Assessment' of Bee-Harming Pesticides, Call for Global Action

Center for Food Safety     Press Release    June 24, 2014

9 scientists review over 800 peer-reviewed publications and urge more restrictions on neonicotinoid pesticides

Following last week’s celebration of “National Pollinator Week” and aPresidential Memorandum to kick-start federal action on bees, the first wide-scale analysis of two classes of pesticides linked to declining bee populations was released early today.

The “Worldwide Integrated Assessment (WIA)” — undertaken by the Task Force on Systemic Pesticides — documents significant harms to bees and ecosystems. Global scientists are calling for new, dramatic restrictions on bee-harming pesticides in the United States and beyond. The report also suggests that the current regulatory system has failed to capture the range of impacts of these pesticide products. 

“This report should be a final wake up call for American regulators who have been slow to respond to the science,” said Emily Marquez, PhD, staff scientist at Pesticide Action Network North America. “The weight of the evidence showing harm to bees and other pollinators should move EPA to restrict neonicotinoids sooner than later. And the same regulatory loopholes that allowed these pesticides to be brought to the market in the first place — and remain on the shelf — need to be closed.”

The report will appear in a forthcoming issue of the journal Environmental Science and Pollution Research and is being released at events in Brussels, Manila, Montreal and Tokyo over the next two days. It underscores that neonicotinoid pesticides and their breakdown products are persistent and harmful, even at very low levels.

“The science clearly shows that, not only are these systemic pesticides lethal to pollinators, but even low doses can disrupt critical brain functions and reduce their immunity to common pathogens,” said Nichelle Harriott, staff scientist at Beyond Pesticides.

“To save our invaluable pollinators, EPA, USDA and all Federal agencies must read this report and immediately implement regulatory remedies against the ongoing neonicotinoid disaster,” said Doug Gurian-Sherman, PhD, senior scientist for Center for Food Safety. “We know from recent studies that neonicotinoid seed treatments are generally not improving yields or even keeping common pests at bay. They aren’t serving farmers and they certainly aren’t serving pollinators. It is time to address this common route of exposure.”

Neonicotinoids, highlighted in the report released today, are a newer class of systemic insecticides that are absorbed by plants and transported throughout the plant’s vascular tissue, making the plant potentially toxic to insects. Imidacloprid (Bayer), then later clothianidin (Bayer), thiamethoxam (Syngenta) and dinotefuran first came into heavy use in the mid-2000s. At the same time, beekeepers started observing widespread cases of colony losses, leaving beekeepers unable to recoup their losses.

This past year was another challenging one for farmers and beekeepers, with beekeepers reporting average losses of over 45%.

“The report lends credence to what beekeepers have been saying for several years,” said Jeff Anderson, beekeeper and owner of California-Minnesota Honey Farms. “Our country depends on bees for crop pollination and honey production. It’s high time regulators realize that applying toxins to plants makes them toxic to bees.”

Over the past few years, advocacy groups and beekeepers have filed legal petitions and lawsuits with EPA, calling on the agency to suspend the use of neonicotinoids.  Yet, over two years later, the agency has refused and indicated it will not finish its review for clothianidin and thiamethoxam, as well as other neonicotinoids, until 2018. Meanwhile, environmental regulators in Europe instituted a 2-year moratorium on the chemicals last December based on the evidence from independent studies.

In addition to bees, the report highlights the far-reaching impacts of neonicotinoids on entire ecosystems, from direct exposure to persistence in soil and water. Bumble bees, butterflies and other pollinators that serve both agriculture and provide ecosystem support services are also in jeopardy from these pesticides.

In addition to neonicotinoids, the report also focuses on the insecticide fipronil, which is also linked to impacts on bees and has been targeted by European regulators for an additional ban.

Today’s report underscores previous summaries of scientific studies on the impact of pesticides on pollinators, including those compiled by groups like Pesticide Action NetworkCenter for Food Safety, the Xerces Society and American Bird Conservancy.

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General Mills, Whole Foods Generate Buzz for Bees

Marketing Daily   By Sarah Mahoney   June 23, 2014

Count Whole Foods and General Mills’ Cascadian Farms as the latest champions of the challenged honeybees. To raise awareness, Whole Foods stores are busy talking up the powers of pollinator with “Human Bee-In” events and “Give Bees A Chance” promotions. And General Mills, which launched Buzz Crunch Honey Almond cereal exclusively at Whole Foods Market stores nationwide back in April, says it is now donating $1 for every box sold, up to $100,000 to the The Xerces Society, an Oregon-based nonprofit and leader in pollinator conservation.

Whole Foods and Xerces say they will continue to share the buzz through July 1, raising awareness of the role bees play in food supply through a social media campaign.

The plight of the honey bee, a problem that has been baffling conservationists and farmers for almost a decade, gained additional attention last week, when President Barack Obama announced a task force to address the issue of rapidly diminishing honey bees and other pollinators. "Pollination is integral to food security in the U.S.," the announcement says, with pollinators, which also include vanishing Monarch butterflies and threatened species of bumblebees, affecting 90 commercially grown crops in North America, and adding some $24 billion to the U.S. economy. Honey bees account for $15 billion, and the number of managed honey bee colonies has fallen from 6 million hives in 1947 to 2.5 million today. Obama's budget recommends $50 million to encourage research.

Consumer brands, including Clorox Co.’s Burt’s Bees and GM’s Cascadian Farms, have adopted bees as a pet cause, partnering with Xerces and other groups. General Mills even has a bee sanctuary at its research farm, and has established bee-friendly habitats on 10 Minnesota farms, as well as next to Muir Glen tomato fields in California. (It’s also funding a 700-acre almond orchard near Fresno, Calif., to produce bee-friendly almonds.)

In years past, Whole Foods has dramatized the bee’s plight by erasing produce items from its shelves. This year, its Lynnfield, Mass., store turned the attention to the dairy aisle, taking away many products for a day to demonstrate how important bees and butterflies are to dairy farmers. The Austin, Tex.-based retailer is also donating $1 for every organic cantaloupe sold to The Xerces Society, and many participating brands are donning “Give Bees A Chance” signs, making with-purchase donations to Xerces, including Annie’sBarney ButterBurt’s Bees; Celestial Seasonings, and Luna.

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Boulder Neighborhood State's First to be declared 'bee-safe'

Daily Camera   By Charlie Brennan   June 14, 2014

The Melody-Catalpa neighborhood of Boulder is proudly wearing the mantle of the first "bee-safe" locality in Colorado.

It may not be a title for which there was fierce competition, but those in the roughly 200 households of the north Boulder neighborhood who signed a pledge not to use neonicotinoids or similar systemic pesticides are buzzing with excitement over earning the distinction.

Three neighborhood residents earlier this year banded together to sign on about 20 volunteers to go door to door. And, faster than they'd dared hope, they convinced more than half of the area's 389 households to sign a pledge not to use neuroactive chemicals that many believe are contributing to the colony collapse phenomenon reported in global honeybee populations.

Those doing so were awarded green flags, signifying their commitment, to plant in their front lawns. Some homes there have not yet been contacted by the volunteers, but will be.

"We felt really good about it," said Anne Bliss, one of the three organizers and a resident of the 3500 block of Catalpa Way. "We thought we would finish this by the end of May, and we more than had our goal really quickly. It took us a couple weeks."

Molly Greacen, another of the drivers behind the Melody-Catalpa bee-safe initiative, said, "The real concern is that if we can get lots of other people to get excited about this idea, then all of Boulder can become bee-safe."


Protecting the bees

Avoid neonicotinoids: Look at labels for imidacloprid, acetamiprid, dinotefuran, clothianidin and thiamethoxam.

Ask garden center employees if plants for sale were treated with neonicotinoids.

Ask your city or park district to use alternatives to neonicotinoids on plants that are bee-visited or bee-pollinated.

Create havens: Form patches of pesticide-free, pollinator-friendly flowers in your garden or neighborhood.

Source: The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation

When Monarch Butterflies Skip Meals

Bug Squad - Happenings in the Insect World   By Kathy Keatley Garvey    4/8/14

Got milkweed? 

If not, monarch butterflies are in a heap of trouble. 

An interesting study just published in journal PLOS One by researchers at the University of Jamestown, North Dakota, and the University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia, revealed that the larvae of monarch butterflies that skip meals (host plant, milkweed) will become adults with a smaller wing size, as much as 2 percent smaller. 

That's important because monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) are migratory animals that travel long distances, and without milkweed, Asclepias spp., their migration will be adversely affected.

In their research, “Does Skipping a Meal Matter to a Butterfly's Appearance? Effects of Larval Food Stress on Wing Morphology and Color in Monarch Butterflies,” Haley Johnson of the University of Jamestown and her colleagues also found that monarch larvae deprived of food became adults with a different wing coloration: paler wings. 

This study nails home the point why we need to plant milkweed. As the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation says on its website: “The loss of milkweed plants in the monarch's spring and summer breeding areas across the United States is believed to be a significant factor contributing to the reduced number of monarchs recorded in overwintering sites in California and Mexico. Agricultural intensification, development of rural lands, and the use of mowing and herbicides to control roadside vegetation have all reduced the abundance of milkweeds in the landscape.” 

To address this seed shortage, the Xerces Society launched Project Milkweed to produce new sources of milkweed seed “where seed has not been reliably available: California, the Great Basin, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and Florida."

Bottom line, the Xerces Society is:

  • raising public awareness about milkweeds' value to monarchs and native pollinators
  • promoting the inclusion of milkweeds in habitat restoration efforts
  • developing milkweed seed production guidelines, and
  • building new markets for milkweed seed.

The Xerces website also offers sources of native milkweed seed in your state. 

Meanwhile, the butterflies that overwintered in Mexico are on the move and in Texas. For more information on butterfly migration, see Monarch Butterfly, Journey North.

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Visit the Kathy Keatley Garvey Bug Squad blog at:

Bill Seeks To Halt Bee-Killing Pesticides in U.S.

Global Issues  By Matthew Charles Cardinale (Atlanta, Georgia) 7/29/13

ATLANTA, Georgia, Jul 29 (IPS) - Two Congressional Democrats have co-sponsored new legislation called the Save America's Pollinators Act of 2013 to take emergency action to save the remaining bees in the U.S., and in turn, the U.S. food supply.

At issue is the use of toxic insecticides called neonicotinoids. Recent studies suggest that at least four types of these insecticides are a primary cause of the massive decline in bee populations seen in the U.S. in recent years.3

It is estimated over 10 million beehives been wiped out since 2007, as part of a phenomenon known as Colony Collapse Disorder.

"Given that EPA allowed many of these insecticides on the market without adequate safety assessments and without adequate field studies on their impact to pollinator health, we feel it's time that Congress support a bill like the Conyers-Blumenauer bill, which would suspend the use of the neonicotinoids until EPA does the adequate science to prove that these neonicotinoids… are not harmful - and if they are harmful, to keep them off the market," Colin O'Neil, director for government affairs for the Centre for Food Safety, told IPS.

"One-third of food that's reliant on the honeybee pollination is really under threat, and threats to pollinators concern the entire food system," O'Neil said.

During the last winter alone, which began in 2012 and ended early this year, U.S. beekeepers lost 45.1 percent of the colonies they operate, with some beekeepers losing 100 percent, according to a government-sponsored study.

The European Union has already imposed a two-year moratorium on several types of neonicotinoids, after the European Food Safety Authority found in January 2013 that certain neonicotinoids were threatening Europe's bee populations.

In May 2013, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a joint study noting that, "Acute and sublethal effects of pesticides on honey bees have been increasingly documented, and are a primary concern."

The proposed legislation, by Rep. John Conyers and Rep. Earl Blumenauer, would require the EPA to suspend the use of at least four neonicotinoids, including imidacloprid, clothianidin, thiamethoxam, and dinotafuran.

The legislation would prevent the EPA from re-authorising the use of the chemicals as pesticides until the agency conducts a full review of the scientific evidence. It would have to determine there are no unreasonable adverse effects on bees or other pollinators or beneficial insects before allowing them back on the market.

Through their pollination activities, by which bees allow plants to reproduce, bees are responsible for over 125 billion dollars in global food production, including over 20 billion dollars in the U.S., according to the legislation's findings.

"Neonicotinoids cause sublethal effects including impaired foraging and feeding behavior, disorientation, weakened immunity, delayed larval development, and increased susceptibility to viruses, diseases, and parasites and numerous studies have also demonstrated acute, lethal effects from the application of neonicotinoid insecticides," the legislation states.

"Recent science has demonstrated that a single corn kernel coated with a neonicotinoid is toxic enough to kill a songbird," it says.

In June 2013, over 50,000 bumblebees were killed in Wilsonville, Oregon, as a direct result of exposure to a neonicotinoid that was used not as a pesticide, but to cosmetically improve the appearance of certain trees.

So many bees have already died in the U.S. that just one more bad winter here could cause a major food crisis, one U.S. Department of Agriculture scientist said in the recent report.

O'Neil notes the U.S. House recently approved an amendment to the Farm Bill that would establish an interagency consultation process on pollinator protection, and would establish a task force to address bee decline.

"Passage of that was the first indicator this summer that members of congress were really waking up to this issue," O'Neil said.

"We feel this bill is necessary because the bees are dying now, and we can't wait four years down the road to come to the conclusion that pesticides are killing bees," he said.

The Centre for Food Safety recently sent an email to their members asking them to contact Gina McCarthy, the new head of the EPA, to encourage her to take action to benefit bees. McCarthy is believed to be a strong proponent of environmental stewardship.

"We're hoping she's going to be a better steward of bee health at the EPA than her predecessor was," O'Neil said.

One of the neonicotinoids was conditionally registered for agricultural uses by the EPA in 2003, based on the fact that it was already registered as an insecticide for non-agricultural uses.

"So they allowed it to be conditionally registered without a field study on the condition this field study would still be received. Ten years later this requirement has never been met and the EPA continues to allow the use," O'Neil said.

Scott Hoffman Black, executive director of the Xerxes Society, an organisation that advocates on behalf of invertebrates, told IPS, "The important fact about , they're systemic, they're inside the plant. Others go straight on the plant, and the rain would wash it off after. It's in the roots, it's in the stem, it's in the flower, it's in the flower nectar."

When asked what would happen to te U.S. diet if there was a bee collapse large enough to eliminate pollination across the nation, Hoffman Black said that crops like wheat and corn, which do not require pollination, would still be available.

"Vegetables, fruits, nuts, all things that are highly nutritious and taste really good," would be eliminated, Hoffman Black said. "We would have rice and wheat.

"Our ecosystems are based on pollination of native bees; everything from grizzly bears to songbirds rely on food that rely on pollination," he said.


© Inter Press Service (2013) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service

Webinar: Protecting Pollinators

Webinar: July 11, 2013   2:00am-3:00pm EDT    /   11:00am-12:00pm PDT

All about supporting pollinator habitat and providing protection from pesticides.

Learn from this free public webinar on habitat conservation and farm practices to support beneficial pollinators, predators, and parasitoids. Sponsored by the USDA NRCS East National Technology Support Center and The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, and posted, the program highlights the importance of insects and other beneficial arthropods on farms and in ecosystems, and ways you can support them. 

The portal ( has many other wonderful conservation webinars available related to farming, forestry, wildlife,  and bioenergy. They can be viewed live when the programs are being presented or any time following the events (though it may take a few days for them to be posted).  

Continuing education credits (Certified Crop Advisor, Society of American Foresters, and The Wildlife Society) are available by taking a short quiz after viewing programs.

Pollinators and other beneficial insects help ensure healthy crop harvests. Participate in this webinar to learn how to support pollinators and natural enemies of crop pests (predators and parasitoids) by providing diverse habitat and protection from pesticides. This webinar highlights research showing how diverse habitat adjacent to cropland supports improved pollination and reduces pest pressure. Learn how to support beneficial insects (pollinators and natural enemies of crop pests) on farms.

Guest Moderator: Sudie Thomas, Wildlife Biologist, USDA NRCS South Carolina

Nancy Lee Adamson, Ph.D. 
Pollinator Conservation Specialist 

The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation and USDA NRCS East National Technology Support Center

Backyard Pesticide Use May Fuel Bee Die-Offs

This article by Brandon Keim appeared in Wired Science on 4/13/12 (Something to think about when planning our gardens.)

The controversy over possible links between massive bee die-offs and agricultural pesticides has overshadowed another threat: the use of those same pesticides in backyards and gardens.

Neonicotinoid pesticides are ubiquitous in everday consumer plant treatments, and may expose bees to far higher doses than those found on farms, where neonicotinoids used in seed coatings are already considered a major problem by many scientists.

“It’s amazing how much research is out there on seed treatments, and in a way that’s distracted everyone from what may be a bigger problem,” said Mace Vaughan, pollinator program director at the Xerces society, an invertebrate conservation group. 

The vast majority of attention paid to neonicotinoids, the world’s most popular class of pesticides, has focused on their agricultural uses and possible effects. A growing body of research suggests that, even at non-lethal doses, the pesticides can disrupt bee navigation and make them vulnerable to disease and...