EPA Restricts Use of Pesticides Linked to Bee Population Decline

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Stopping Colony Collapse Disorder: EPA Halts Use of Pesticides Thought to Be Responsible for Mass Bee Die-Offs

Last week the EPA took action on neonicatinoid pesticides—a class of pesticide that impacts the central nervous system of insects—announcing it's unlikely to approve most outdoor uses of the pesticides until new pollinator risk assessments can prove they don't endanger the bee population.

According to the EPA:

EPA will likely not be in a position to approve most applications for new uses of these chemicals until new bee data have been submitted and pollinator risk assessments are complete. The letters reiterate that the EPA has required new bee safety studies for its ongoing registration review process for the neonicotinoid pesticides, and that the Agency must complete its new pollinator risk assessments, which are based, in part, on the new data, before it will likely be able to make regulatory decisions on imidacloprid, clothianidin, thiamethoxam, and dinotefuran that would expand the current uses of these pesticides.

There have long been concerns neonicotinoid pesticides are contributing to colony collapse disorder (CCD). With CCD, bees abandon the hive, leaving the queen bee behind. While no dead bees are found, the pesticide is thought to impact the memory of the pollinators, confusing them so they don’t make their way back to the hive. The U.S. has lost nearly 10 million hives since 2013 in unexplained die-offs.

Harvard researcher Chensheng Lu and his team treated 12 bee colonies with tiny levels of neonicotinoid pesticides. According to the study, reported by Naturally Savvy, “We found honey bee colonies in both control and neonicotinoid-treated groups progressed almost identically, and observed no acute morbidity or mortality in either group until the arrival of winter.”

When winter came, bees in six of the colonies disappeared, a common trait of CCD. The study suggested the pesticide impacted the cognition and memory of the bees, causing them to desert the hives.

Last year, The Center for Food Safety filed a brief against the EPA on behalf of the beekeeping industry, which asked them to halt use of sulfoxaflor, a pesticide that's part of the neonicotinoid family. Hopefully this is a strong next step toward reviving the bee population.

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Image of bee on a flower via Shuttershock

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