(Beyond Pesticides, July 2, 2013) In the wake of massive bee kills, the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) is placing temporary restrictions on the use of pesticides with the active ingredient dinotefuran. Dinotefuran, a neonicotinoid pesticide, was confirmed as the cause of one massive bee die-off in Wilsonville, Oregon, and suspected as the cause of another bee die off in Hillsboro, Oregon. This temporary restriction will be in place for 180 days for a limited number of dinotefuran uses. Environmental advocates have sued EPA on neonicotinoid pesticides, citing its regulatory process as deficient in protecting bees and other beneficial organisms.
Just as Pollinator Week 2013 began, an estimated 50,000 bumblebees, likely representing over 300 colonies, were found dead or dying in Wilsonville. According to the Xerces Society, this was the largest known incident of bumblebee deaths ever recorded in the country. After a preliminary investigation, ODA confirmed that the massive bee die-off was caused by the use of the insecticide dinotefuran. Then, it was reported by The Oregonian that hundreds of bees were found dead after the same pesticide was used in the neighboring town of Hillsboro. Dan Hilburn, director of plant programs at the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA), told Oregon Live that he had “never encountered anything quite like it in 30 years in the business.”
The new rule, which has already gone into effect, prohibits the use of dinotefuran on any plant. According to the new rule, “This includes, but is not limited to, applications on landscape trees and shrubs, nursery and greenhouse plants, turfgrass, forests and agricultural crops.” Making an application of dinotefuran could result in the revocation of an applicator’s license or the imposition of a civil penalty. Regulators acknowledge that carrying out this new rule will be difficult to enforce on individual homeowners. Products containing dinotefuran are not being taken off shelves, so residents can still purchase these toxic chemicals. Dinotefuran use in flea collars, and ant and roach control will still be allowed under this new rule. Though this ban is a step in the right direction, it underscores the obvious risk neonicotinoid pesticides create for pollinators.
First introduced in the early 1990”²s as an alternative to the acutely toxic organophosphate and carbamate classes of pesticides, neonicotinoids are now the most widely used insecticides in the world. Neonicotinoids, including dinotefuran, can be broadly applied as a spray, soil drench, or seed treatment, and the ability of these chemicals to translocate through a plant as it grows has led to their widespread use in landscaping and agriculture.
Once these systemic pesticides are taken up by a plant’s vascular system, they are expressed through the pollen, nectar and guttation droplets from which pollinators such as bees then forage and drink. Neonicotinoids kill sucking and chewing insects by disrupting their nervous systems. Beyond these chronic toxic effects neonicotinoid are also extremely acutely toxic to pollinators as the recent incident in Oregon helps illustrate. Beginning in the late 1990s, these systemic insecticides also began to take over the seed treatment market. Clothianidin and imidacloprid are two of the most commonly used neonicotinoid pesticides. Both are known to be toxic to insect pollinators, and are lead suspects as causal factors in honey bee colony collapse disorder. An extensive overview of the major studies showing the effects of neonicotiniods on pollinator health can be found on Beyond Pesticides’ What the Science Shows webpage.
Bumblebees have recently experienced dramatic population declines, a fate that is similar to other pollinators. Bumblebees are crucial to pollination of several different crops in the Willamette Valley of Oregon. Blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and crop seed production, which are grown in Oregon, all rely on bumblebees for pollination. Mace Vaughn, pollinator conservation program director with the Xerces Society, told Oregon Live, “Bumblebees are the single most important natural pollinator in Oregon.”
These staggering bumblebee losses are an important reminder that quick action is needed to protect pollinators. Beyond Pesticides’ BEE Protective campaign has all the educational tools you need to help pollinators. Sign the Pesticide Free Zone Declaration and pledge to maintain your yard, park, garden or other green space as organically-managed and pollinator friendly, or use our model resolution to transform your community and raise awareness about pollinator health. For more information, see Beyond Pesticides’ BEE Protective webpage.
Source: Oregon Live
All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.