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Daily News Blog

Archive for the 'Beneficials' Category


24
Mar

Rusty Patched Bumblebee Listed as Endangered

(Beyond Pesticides, March 24, 2017) On March 21, the rusty patched bumblebee’s path to protection cleared political hurdles this week. The Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) on March 21 officially listed the rusty patched bumblebee under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), after months of turmoil due to the Trump Administration’s temporary freeze on federal regulations adopted at the end of the Obama Administration. This listing stands as a landmark decision, marking the rusty patched bumblebee the first bumblebee species, and first bee overall in the continental U.S., to officially be declared endangered by FWS. In October 2016, FWS listed seven species of bees as endangered in Hawaii. The initial decision to list the rusty patched bumblebee as an endangered species came at the very end of President Obama’s term, on January 11, to take effect in February. FWS said in its news release, “Causes of the decline in rusty patched bumble bee populations are believed to be loss of habitat; disease and parasites; use of pesticides that directly or indirectly kill the bees; climate change, which can affect the availability of the flowers they depend on; and extremely small population size. Most likely, a combination of these factors has caused the decline in rusty patched […]

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01
Mar

Polli-Nation Pollinator of the Month: Fig Wasp

(Beyond Pesticides, March 1, 2017) The Fig wasp is the pollinator of the month for March. A highly evolved pollinator crucial to the life cycle of the fig tree, the fig wasp is part of the chalcidoid family. Within this classification, it is a member of the agaonidae sub family, which consists of both mutualistic pollinating, and parasitic, non-pollinating, fig wasps. Fig wasps have a mutually beneficially relationship with fig trees, as both the tree and the wasp rely on each other for reproduction. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, there are about 900 species of pollinating fig wasps that are responsible for pollinating 900 different fig tree species. The relationship between fig trees and fig wasps is so evolved that each type of fig wasp pollinates only one specific type of fig tree, creating a beautiful and interdependent evolutionary partnership. Range The range of the fig wasp is dependent on the range of fig trees, which, according to the Encyclopedia of Life, are mainly found in the tropical and subtropical areas of the southern hemisphere. The most widely known fig tree, the common fig tree, or Ficus carica, is native to southwest Asia and the Mediterranean, and range anywhere from […]

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14
Feb

Trump Administration Reverses Endangered Species Designation for Bumblebee Pending Review

(Beyond Pesticides, February 14, 2017) Less than one month after the Rusty Patched Bumblebee’s listing as ‘threatened’ under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), the Trump Administration has reversed the order. On his first day in office, President Trump issued a memo instructing federal agencies to postpone the effective date of any regulations that had been published in the Federal Register, but not yet in effect. This order means that despite FWS’ determination that without federal action the species will likely become endangered, the Trump administration has 60 days to evaluate the decision for the purpose of “reviewing questions of fact, law, and policy.” Advocates for the imperiled species are urging the administration to allow the Rusty Patched Bumblebee to officially become the first bumblebee federally recognized under ESA. Although the Rusty Patched was once widespread throughout the United States and parts of Canada, it declined dramatically in the 1990’s, and now their populations are estimated to be less than 10% of what they once were.  On its website, FWS lists a number of threats to the Rusty Patched, including pesticides, habitat loss, disease, climate change, and intensive farming practices. Insecticides known as neonicotinoids, […]

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10
Feb

NRDC and Others Sue Over Two-for-One Executive Order

(Beyond Pesticides, February 10, 2017) On Wednesday, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), along with Public Citizen and the Communications Workers of America, sued the Trump administration in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in an attempt to block an executive order (EO) mandating that federal agencies zero out costs to regulated entities, while ignoring benefits to the public, environment, and natural resources. The so-called “Two for One” order requires agencies to propose the repeal of two regulations for every new regulation that is proposed. The Executive Order in question mandates that new rules have a net zero cost to regulated entities in fiscal year 2017, with no mechanism for taking into account the value of benefits they provide in the form of public protection. According to the complaint, “the Executive Order directs agencies to disregard the benefits of new and existing rules—including benefits to consumers, to workers, to people exposed to pollution, and to the economy—even when the benefits far exceed costs. The Executive Order’s direction to federal agencies to zero out costs to regulated industries, while entirely ignoring benefits to the Americans whom Congress enacted these statutes to protect, will force agencies to take regulatory […]

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03
Feb

Polli-Nation Pollinator of the Month: Ruby-Throated Hummingbird

(Beyond Pesticides, February 3, 2017) The Ruby Throated Hummingbird is the pollinator of the month for February. Hummingbirds are nature’s most nimble of birds. They are so quick and agile that most of the time all you’ll see is a flash of red and green before realizing you just encountered a Ruby Throated Hummingbird. This month’s pollinator is the most abundant species of hummingbird on the eastern half of North America. They are named after the coloration of ruby red feathers around their throat. Range The Ruby Throated Hummingbird is the most populous hummingbird found east of the Mississippi. They enjoy mild habitats such as pine and deciduous forests, and can also be found zipping around urban and suburban gardens and orchards.  Ruby Throated Hummingbirds “winter,” meaning they migrate to warmer parts of the globe during the colder winter months. They typically spend that time in parts of Central America and southern Mexico, but have been known to travel as far south as Costa Rica and the West Indies, according to Animal Diversity Web. They will often migrate without stopping, traveling distances as great as 1,600 km in one trip.  According to the Encyclopedia of Life, the hummingbird’s mating grounds are typically east of the 100th meridian in the […]

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01
Feb

North Miami Passes IPM Plan in Response to Local Activism

(Beyond Pesticides, February 1, 2017) Last week in North Miami, the City Council took a significant step that could reduce pesticide use in the community. The Council adopted an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) policy modeled after a plan developed by San Francisco in the mid-90’s. The plan does not ban pesticides and herbicides, but instead aims to reeducate citizens and county workers on least-toxic pest management strategies with the goal of eliminating toxic pesticide use on city property.  The IPM plan does not address pesticide use on private property, due to state preemption of local authority. With the passage of the North Miami’s resolution, city operatives will now be asked to give preference to available, safe and effective non-pesticide alternatives and cultural practices. As stated in the resolution’s Integrated Pesticide Management Program Guidelines, the goal of the policy is “to eliminate the application of all Toxicity Category I and Category II pesticide products by January 2018.” On top of eliminating certain pesticide categories, the resolution also calls for staff training and expert consultants, both of which have the potential to help ease the transition in pursuit of the 2018 goal, and priority will be given to efforts to reduce or eliminate pesticide use near […]

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12
Jan

Rusty Patch Bumblebee Officially Listed as an Endangered Species

(Beyond Pesticides, January 12, 2017) Yesterday marked a monumental event in the fight against pollinator declines, as the rusty patched bumblebee became the first bee species to officially be declared endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). According to FWS, endangered species designations are made when a species is “in danger of becoming extinct throughout all or a portion of their range.” Tom Melius, Service Midwest Regional Director for FWS, stated in a press release that, when it comes to this determination, “[FWS’s] top priority is to act quickly to prevent extinction of the rusty patched bumble bee. Listing the bee as endangered will help [the agency] mobilize partners and focus resources on finding ways right now to stop the decline.” Listed yesterday in the Federal Register, the ruling will go into effect February 10, 2017. This is a victory for environmental groups who have fought to protect the rusty patched bumble bee from widespread threats, such as habitat loss and pesticide use. According to FWS, the rusty patched bumble bee was once widespread across the United States and parts of Canada, but declined dramatically in the 1990s.  Since then, their populations have dwindled and their overall decline is estimated at 91 […]

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24
Dec

Successes of the Past Help Meet Challenges of the Future: Have a Healthy New Year

(Beyond Pesticides, December 24, 2016) Beyond Pesticides thanks our members and supporters for being a part of a critical movement to advance sustainable and organic land and building management in 2016. As our Daily News takes a holiday break, returning Tuesday, January 3, 2017, we hope you will join us in reflecting on the progress made this year, and the critical challenges that lie ahead. The road ahead We are entering a period in our nation’s history with many serious concerns about the protection of public health and the environment. We have heard the President-elect’s rhetoric about the overreach of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the burden of regulatory compliance, and the need to dismantle environmental programs. The nominee for EPA Administrator is on record as challenging science and the value of environmental protection. In contrast, we have learned over the last several decades that protection of the environment contributes to a productive economy and healthier people. Beyond Pesticides’ databases track the scientific literature on pesticide hazards and alternatives, which clearly document the value of healthy ecosystems in providing ecosystem services that translate to reduced costs for farmers and land managers. Whether we’re talking about bees and other pollinators or predator insects, […]

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23
Dec

72 Toxic Inert Ingredients No Longer Used in Pesticide Products Cancelled, 300 Others Still Not Listed on Labels

(Beyond Pesticides, December 23, 2016) The Environmental Agency (EPA) has finalized a proposal to ban 72 inert (or secret hazardous) ingredients from use in pesticide formulations following a long fight with environmentalists who, in 2006, asked that pesticide product labels disclose any of 371 inert ingredients that could be in products. While this finalization is a step in the right direction, ultimately the move is viewed by advocates as inadequate. The original petition, submitted by Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides, along with Beyond Pesticides, Physicians for Social Responsibility, and nearly 20 other organizations, called on the agency to require disclosure of inerts. To put the announcement in perspective, EPA is acting on 72 inert ingredients that are no longer being used, such as turpentine oil, and nitrous oxide. An inert ingredient is defined as any ingredient that is “not active,” or specifically targeted to kill a pest. According to a 2000 report produced by the New York State Attorney General, The Secret Ingredients in Pesticides: Reducing the Risk, 72 percent of pesticide products available to consumers contain over 95 percent inert ingredients and fewer than 10 percent of pesticide products list any inert ingredients on their labels. The report also found […]

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25
May

Goats Put to Work to Restore NYC’s Prospect Park

(Beyond Pesticides, May 25, 2016) New York City’s Prospect Park is bringing in a herd of goats to fight back opportunistic species that are encroaching in an area of the park after damage caused by Hurricane Sandy. Rather than spray toxic weed killers like 2,4-D, triclopyr, or glyphosate, the Prospect Park Alliance used the grant money it obtained from the National Park Service to bring in these 4-legged weed warriors as a safe and environmentally friendly way to restore storm-damaged areas. “We are pleased to welcome these goats to Prospect Park to help us further the important woodland restoration work that has always been a focus for the Alliance,” Prospect Park Alliance President Sue Donoghue said to ABC7. “These goats will provide an environmentally-friendly approach to our larger efforts, which will not only beautify the Park, but make it more resilient to future storms.” After Hurricane Sandy barreled up the east coast, a roughly 1.5 acre area of Prospect Park was seriously damaged, with 100s of trees toppled. The disturbance has allowed so-called invasive species to move into the park, supplanting the regrowth of native species in the last remaining forested area in the borough of Brooklyn. Goats act as […]

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01
Mar

Fish and Wildlife Service to Assess Harm from Glyphosate and Atrazine on Endangered Species

(Beyond Pesticides, March 1, 2016) Under the terms of an agreement reached lasted month, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) will begin studying the effects of four commonly used herbicides on the health of 1,500 endangered species in the United States. Based on the terms of the settlement, the result of a series of lawsuits launched by the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), FWS must develop a  plan to mitigate the effects of glyphosate, atrazine, and its chemical cousins propazine and simazine, on any threatened or endangered species. “This agreement will result in long-overdue protections for our country’s most endangered species,” said Brett Hartl, endangered species policy director at CBD. “Once the Fish and Wildlife Service completes its analysis, and the public finally learns just how toxic and deadly these pesticides are to endangered species, we hope that the government will ultimately take most of these products off the shelf.” Under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is required to consult with FWS and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) on the impacts of pesticides on endangered species when it registers a chemical under federal pesticide law (the Federal Insecticide Fungicide and Rodenticide Act, or […]

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08
Feb

Loss of Soil Microbial Diversity Negatively Affects Ecosystem Services

(Beyond Pesticides, February 8, 2016) A recent study has revealed that a decrease in soil biota, resulting from an increase in arid zones due to climate change, impacts the services that soil provides, from decomposition of organic matter to nutrient cycling and carbon fixing. “As the  aridity of soils goes up, the microbial diversity and abundance is reduced,” Brajesh Singh, Ph.D., a professor at Western Sydney University and an author of the paper, said. “As the soils’ multi-functions are reduced, so there are social and economic consequences.” Unfortunately, climate change is not the only cause for concern.  Studies have shown that conventional agriculture, intrinsically linked with the dependence on  pesticides, can also reduce diversity in soil biota. The study, published in Nature Communications, used two large-scale databases with contrasting geographic coverage (from 78 global drylands and from 179 locations across Scotland) and found that soil microbial diversity  positively relates to multi-functionality in terrestrial ecosystems. Put simply, when soil diversity is high, the soil can function more efficiently and provide a multitude of ecosystem services. The researcher’s models indicate that microbial diversity was as important as or more important than other multifunctionality predictors, such as mean annual temperature and altitude in […]

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15
Oct

Study Finds Wildflowers Contain More Neonics than Treated Fields

(Beyond Pesticides, October 15, 2015) A new study, published in Environmental Science & Technology, has found that wildflowers bordering fields that are treated with neonicotinoids contain a higher concentration of the bee-toxic pesticides than the actual treated fields, pointing out an often overlooked avenue of exposure for bees. Widely-used neonicotinoids, which as systemic chemicals move through a plant’s vascular system and express poison through pollen, nectar, and guttation droplets, have been identified in multiple  peer-reviewed studies  and by beekeepers  as the major contributing factor in bee decline. The study, titled Neonicotinoid Residues in Wildflowers, A Potential Route of Chronic Exposure for Bees, discovered neonicotinoid insecticides in wildflowers, including Hogweed and Poppy pollen (up to 86ppb and 64ppb, respectively). The study’s authors  found higher concentrations of neonicotinoids in wild flowers in field margins than in Oilseed rape flowers in the adjacent neonicotinoid treated crop — on average 15ppb vs. 3ppb.   They also found that more than 97% of the neonicotinoids being brought into the hive by honey bees are from wildflowers, while only 3% are  from the crop. Researchers have found  that chronic exposure to neonicotinoids increases neuronal vulnerability to mitochondrial dysfunction in the bumblebee. In other words, these pesticides […]

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25
Sep

Study Finds No Benefit to Bee-Toxic Neonic Use

(Beyond Pesticides, September 25, 2015) Neonicotinoid-treated seeds do not reduce crop damage from pests, adding to a growing body of evidence questioning the benefits of using these bee-toxic insecticides, according to a study  published in the journal BioOne. Widely-used neonicotinoids (neonics), which as systemic chemicals move through a plant’s vascular system and express poison through pollen, nectar, and guttation droplets, have been identified in multiple  peer-reviewed studies and by beekeepers  as the major contributing factor in bee decline. The study,  titled Impact of Western Bean Cutworm (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae) Infestation and Insecticide Treatments on Damage and Marketable Yield of Michigan Dry Beans, examines the relationship between western bean cutworm infestation and damage in dry beans, and the use of seeds treated with the neonicotinoid thiamethoxam, as well as soil treated with aldicarb, another systemic insecticide. Researchers have concluded that neither thiamethoxam nor aldicarb reduced cutworm damage. In fact, plots treated with these insecticides had a higher percentage of defects due to feeding by pests when compared to untreated plots, which researchers believed is  attributable to factors such as fewer natural enemies. There have been additional reports and studies published over the past few years questioning the benefits of neonic use. In […]

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03
Sep

Ants Show Promise as Alternative to Chemical Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides, September 3, 2015) A study published this week reveals that ants are a cheaper, more effective means to managing pests than toxic chemical pesticides. The review was conducted by Aarhus University’s Joachim Offenberg, Ph.D., a plant and insect ecologist who has studied ants for over 20 years. His review focuses on Oecophylla smaragina and O. longinoda, commonly referred to as weaver ants, and their beneficial effects on various crops in Africa, Southeast Asia, and Australia. In this review, Dr. Offenberg finds weaver ants to be as or more effective than synthetic pesticides for pest management in a variety of cropping systems. This evidence brings renewed vigor to the argument that natural, biological pest management can act as a viable alternative to the use of toxic pesticides that endanger health and the environment. Weaver ants, often found in tropical climates, are tree-dwelling ants with characteristics that are ideal for biological pest management. They are categorized as a “superorganism,” meaning the colony itself is like an   organism, with individual ants acting as “cells” that can move around independently. Dr. Offenberg sees this as a strength because the colony is able to prey on targets much larger and stronger than […]

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18
Aug

Decline in Biodiversity and Pest Problems Intricately Linked

(Beyond Pesticides, August 18, 2015) Research looking at corn production  across the Northern Great Plains finds that fields with lower insect biodiversity are at greater risk for pest problems, showing that insect diversity can reduce the need for pesticides, yet again highlighting the critical need for biodiversity in a resilient and sustainable food production system. The research article, Trading Biodiversity for Pest Problems, is published in the July 31 issue of Science Advances, and explores how current chemical-intensive  practices have resulted in altered pesticide use patterns, land use intensification, and landscape simplification, all of which threaten biodiversity in and near farms. The findings suggest that farming practices that promote insect biodiversity is  an effective way to control pests without the use of harmful pesticides. Scientists Jonathan Lundgren, PhD, an entomologist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture—Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS), and Scott Fausti, PhD, an economics professor at South Dakota State University looked at insect diversity in cornfields on 53 different eastern South Dakota farms. The researchers evaluate fields that do not use insecticides or crops that are genetically engineered (GE), which may  influence corn insect communities. They also specifically identify insect species during the time in the corn’s life cycle […]

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17
Aug

Roundup Damages Earthworms and Soil Biota, Contributes to Nutrient Pollution

(Beyond Pesticides, August 17, 2015) A study published in Scientific Reports has found that glyphosate, the controversial and toxic active ingredient in Roundup, reduces activity and reproduction in two species of earthworms and increases soil nutrient concentrations to dangerous levels. Earthworms are excellent indicators of soil health, and provide vitally important  ecosystem services  by aerating the soil, cycling nutrients, and increasing soil fertility and microbial activity. The findings are especially alarming because this herbicide has been used globally for decades, and its  use has  grown exponentially.  Earlier this spring, the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified glyphosate as Group 2a “probable” human carcinogen based on sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in laboratory animals. Researchers looked at two species of earthworms: vertically burrowing earthworms (Lumbricus terrestris) and soil dwelling earthworms (Aporrectodea caliginosa). Vertically burrowing earthworms typically feed above ground at night and then burrow close to the surface during the day. Soil dwelling earthworms live and feed in the soil, rather than at the surface. Vertically burrowing earthworms engage in what is known as casting, which is when they ingest soil and extract nutrients from plant litter and other organic matter, emerge from their burrows, and deposit their waste […]

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14
Aug

Sublethal Exposure to Pesticides Induces Personality Changes in Spiders

(Beyond Pesticides, August 14, 2015) Sublethal exposure to the organophosphate pesticide phosmet results in significant alterations in personality in individual spiders, according to a study published in the July print edition of the journal Functional Ecology. The study, titled “Under the influence: sublethal exposure to an insecticide affects personality expression in a jumping spider,” examines whether sublethal exposure to an organophosphate insecticide affects the consistency of individual behavior and disrupt behavioral correlations in the jumping spider Eris militaris (Araneae: Salticidae). Researchers measured the behavior of jumping spider adults by scoring them according to an open-field and a prey-capture assay, each conducted both before and after exposure to the insecticide phosmet. Researchers then measured the changes in repeatability, a measure of the extent of personality differences, and behavioral correlations between exposed and unexposed groups. Although there are no discernible effects on the population’s average behaviors, exposed individuals showed an average of 23 percent lower repeatability and the correlation between activity and prey capture is more strongly collapsed in females. “Bronze jumping spiders play an important role in orchards and fields, especially at the beginning of the agricultural season, by eating many of the pests like the oblique-banded leafroller, a moth that […]

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