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Daily News Blog

Archive for the 'Biodiversity' Category


29
Sep

Study Shows Climate Change Threatens Soil Organisms Essential to Life

(Beyond Pesticides, September 29, 2017) Protect polar bears and “big charismatic wildlife!”  But do not ignore the microscopic organisms essential to ecological sustainability. That is the take from a new study at University of California Berkeley, which, for the first time, links global climate change to the loss of a “shockingly high” number of critical microbial species essential to ecological systems, biodiversity, and organic land management. Other studies link chemical-intensive agriculture, and its reliance on petroleum-based substances, to adverse effects on soil organisms and insects and birds essential to ecological balance, while indicating the importance of organic management practices in protecting biodiversity and curtailing global climate change. As stated in the study, “Models predict that up to 30% of parasitic worms are committed to extinction, driven by a combination of direct and indirect pressures.”  Furthermore, for those species “successfully tracking climate change,” the search for food and water, in once unavailable habitat, will cause them to “invade” and to “replace” native plants and animals with “unpredictable ecological consequences.” Lead author of the study, Ph.D. candidate Colin Carlson, states that for symbiotic parasites, those with numerous beneficial roles, “a loss of suitable habitat” comes as a result of “host-driven coextinctions.” In an interview […]

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21
Jul

Sustained Glyphosate Use Reveals Risks to Soil and Environmental Health

(Beyond Pesticides, July 21, 2017) A March 2017 review of studies on the agricultural use of glyphosate (the active ingredient in “Roundup” and other formulated herbicides) points to widespread persistence in soils subject to long-term, intensive glyphosate use, and myriad resulting concerns about impacts on soil and environmental health. The review, by Robert J. Kremer, PhD, of the University of Missouri School of Natural Resources, cites concerns that include: reduction of nutrient availability for plants and organisms; disruption to organism diversity, especially in the areas around plant roots; reductions of beneficial soil bacteria; increases in plant root pathogens; disturbed earthworm activity; reduced nitrogen fixing at plant roots; and compromised growth and reproduction in some soil and aquatic organisms. Globally, glyphosate is the most widely used herbicide compound: in 2017, worldwide use is estimated to be approximately 1.35 million metric tons. Use in the U.S. has risen dramatically — from 2.72–3.62 million kg in 1987 to approximately 108 million kg in 2014, and 15-fold since 1996, when genetically engineered (GE) glyphosate-tolerant crops were introduced. Use has grown for a number of reasons, including more-intensive use as resistance to the herbicide grows. Researchers have found that, after years of consistent application to […]

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16
Apr

Court Grants Temporary Injunction to Endangered Protect Rusty Patch Bumblebee Habitat

(Beyond Pesticides, April 19, 2017) Local activists in Illinois were handed an exciting victory on Monday when a judge granted a temporary restraining order to shut down a construction project due to the presence of the rusty patch bumblebee, a recently listed endangered species. The group Stop Longmeadow, in reference to the Longmeadow Parkway Bridge Corridor project, filed the lawsuit, Case: 1:16-cv-05435, based on the fact that the rusty patch bumblebee has been found in the Brunner Forest Preserve, which borders 5.6 miles of the corridor project. The defendants, including the U.S. Department of Transportation, the U.S. Department of the Interior, and the Forest Preserve District of Kane County, argue that the scheduled construction will not affect bumblebee habitat. The court rejected their position, however, siding in the plaintiffs by finding “the balance of harms weighs in favor of the plaintiffs and against the public’s interest in reduced traffic congestions.” The restraining order was issued by Judge Sharon Coleman in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois Eastern Division. Based on the evidence presented by the plaintiff’s motion, Judge Coleman reasoned that “a brief stay to the project is warranted.” She went on to point out that, […]

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06
Apr

Study Finds Neonicotinoids in Water Straight from the Tap

(Beyond Pesticides, April 5, 2017) A new study, Occurrence of Neonicotinoid Insecticides in Finished Drinking Water and Fate during Drinking Water Treatment, has detected neonicotinoids, a class of insecticides known for their detrimental effects on bees, in treated drinking water. This marks the first time that these insecticides have been found in water sourced straight from the tap. Federal regulators have not yet addressed safe levels of neonicotinoids in drinking water, so at this point, any detection of these chemicals is cause for concern. The study authors “report for the first time the presence of three neonicotinoids in finished drinking water and demonstrate their general persistence during conventional water treatment.” Drinking water samples “collected along the University of Iowa treatment train” over a seven week period, May through July, 2016 directly after corn and soy planting, find three neonicotinoids, clothianidin, imidacloprid, and thiamethoxam at levels ranging from 0.24 to 57.3 ng/L (nanogams per liter). The University of Iowa tap water is run through a water treatment plant that uses conventional treatment methods.  In contrast, the Iowa City water treatment methods (granular activated carbon filtration) result in substantially lower levels of the neonicotinoids. Additionally, the researchers found that extensive transformation of clothianidin […]

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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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08
Mar

UN Report Finds that Pesticide Use Negatively Impacts Human Rights

(Beyond Pesticides, March 8, 2017) A report released by the United Nations finds that human rights are adversely affected by pesticide use. With chemicals, like pesticides, long advanced by the synthetic pesticide and fertilizer industry as the answer to feeding the world, the Special Rapporteur on the right to food report concludes that industrialized agriculture has not succeeded in eliminating world hunger, and has only hurt human health and the environment in its wake. The report will be presented before the Human Rights Council today, and aims to give the international governing body an in-depth understanding of the state of global pesticide use in agriculture and its impact on human rights, specifically as it relates to food security. It also looks at the impact of pesticides on the environment, highlighting the need for a transition to more sustainable agricultural practices on a global scale. Authors of the report, Hilal Elver, Ph.D., the UN’s special rapporteur on the right to food, and Baskut Tuncak, the UN’s special rapporteur on toxics, highlight the overarching problem with their observation that “reliance on hazardous pesticides is a short-term solution that undermines the rights to adequate food and health for present and future generations.” They begin the report by […]

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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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28
Feb

Common Fungicide Damages Muscles that Bees Use to Fly

(Beyond Pesticides, February 27, 2017) Myclobutanil, a systemic fungicide commonly used in agriculture and home gardens, can cause significant damage to the muscles that honey bees use to fly and keep warm during the winter. The results of a study, published this month in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) by a group of researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, underscore the importance of wide-scale education and movement away from the regular use of toxic pesticides. After nearly a decade of unsustainable losses, honey bees and other pollinators continue to suffer declines resulting from the use of toxic pesticides, particularly systemic insecticides called neonicotinoids. Although a substantial body of science implicates neonicotinoids as the most serious chemical threat to pollinators currently, the effects of fungicides and other pesticides on these important animals should not be dismissed as inconsequential. In fact, a 2016 study published by researchers at the University of Maryland found that bee colonies may die off as the number of different pesticide exposures increase. In this recent study, researchers discovered complex interactions between myclobutanil, natural compounds found in flowers, and honey bees’ detoxification system, known as cytochrome 450 enzymes. When foraging on flowers sprayed with […]

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17
Feb

Two Months until Healthy Hives, Healthy Lives, Healthy Land Conference!

(Beyond Pesticides, February 17, 2017) We’re only two months away from our 35th National Pesticide Forum! Join us for Healthy Hives, Healthy Lives, Healthy Land: Ecological and Organic Strategies for Regeneration, held at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs in Minneapolis, Minnesota on April 28-29, 2017. Register Today Get the Early Bird Discount (available until March 28)! As an Early Bird buyer, you can get a general rate for $40, a student rate for $20, or a business rate for $170. Scholarships are also available. All ticket price rates include organic meals: on Friday, organic beer, wine, and hors d’oeuvre; on Saturday, organic breakfast, lunch, and dinner, plus organic beer and wine at the evening reception. For more details about registration, click here. Background The Forum offers a unique opportunity during a critical time in our nation’s history to chart a course that upholds principles, values, policies and practices that protect health and the environment. The Forum brings together speakers on the latest science on pesticides, from bee-toxic neonicotinoids to glyphosate, contrasted with practitioners utilizing organic management practices in agriculture and parks, and on athletic fields and rangeland. In sum, the Forum seeks to help hone public understanding of the […]

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13
Feb

Herbicide Use Contributes to Declines in Monarch Populations

(Beyond Pesticides, February 13, 2017)  A study by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and others  attributes the reduced number of overwintering monarch butterflies –a reduction of 27% from last year—to herbicide use and other factors. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF), in conjunction with U.S. and Mexican environmental groups, has been leading the effort in tracking monarch butterflies.  Their recently released 2016-2017 study concluded that the population of monarch butterflies decreased 27 percent from last year’s population, which had marked an increase from dangerously low levels over the previous three years.  Overall, this marks an 80 percent decline in monarch population from the 1990’s.  Researchers have estimated that within 20 years the monarch butterfly migration could collapse altogether. The study was conducted in December of 2016 when the colonies of monarchs are expected to be at their peak population in Mexico.  Monarch populations are gauged by the area of land they inhabit, rather than counts of butterflies.   Thirteen butterfly colonies were observed, recorded and tracked using geographic information systems software.  The researchers found that the butterflies occupied 2.91 hectares of forest, which re presents a 27.43 percent decrease in population compared to the 4.01 hectares of forest they inhabited during the […]

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07
Feb

Ruling Affirmed in Colorado Pesticide Trespass Case

(Beyond Pesticides, February 7, 2017) After years of legal battle, the Colorado Court of Appeals last week affirmed a ruling that Colorado rancher, James Hopper, must serve two days in jail and pay a $7,500 fine for spraying pesticides that drifted unto his neighbor’s farm in violation of a 2012 court order protecting his neighbors. In 2012, organic farmers Rosemary Bilchak and her husband Gordon MacAlpine, were granted a permanent injunction prohibiting pesticide applications within 150 feet of the property line in order to reduce pesticide drift. Last week’s decision bolsters a legal precedent that wafting pesticides can constitute a trespass against which adjacent landowners and people with health sensitivities are protected. The legal battle began in 2011 when Mr. Hopper obtained his Colorado pesticide applicator’s license and applied the adulticide Fyfanon, which contains the organophosphate insecticide malathion, to kill mosquitoes on his property. However, the pesticide drifted onto Ms. Bilchak and Mr. MacAlpine’s organic vegetable farm. In 2012, a District Court Judge ruled that they have a right not to have their property invaded by other people or things, and prohibited Mr. Hopper from fogging for mosquitoes within 150 feet of his neighbor’s property or allowing the pesticides to drift, […]

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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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02
Feb

Common Pesticide Ingredient Labeled “Inert” Increases Honey Bee Susceptibility to Virus

(Beyond Pesticides, February 2, 2017) A commonly used inert pesticide ingredient negatively affects the health of honey bees by making larvae more susceptible to a virus, according to a recently published study in the journal, Nature. One of the authors of the study, Julia Fine, PhD candidate, stated that the findings, “Mirror the symptoms observed in hives following almond pollination, when bees are exposed to organosilicone adjuvant residues in pollen, and viral pathogen prevalence is known to increase. In recent years, beekeepers have reported missing, dead and dying brood in their hives following almond pollination, and exposure to agrochemicals, like adjuvants, applied during bloom, has been suggested as a cause.” The study assessed honey bee larval development after exposure to a continuous low dose of Sylgard 309, a surfactant, in their diet. This organosilicone surfactant is commonly used on agricultural crops, including tree fruits, nuts, and grapes. Their results reveal that honey bee exposure to chemical surfactants such as Sylgard 309 led to higher levels of Black Queen Cell Virus and when the bee larvae were exposed to the surfactant and virus simultaneously, “the effect on their mortality was synergistic rather than additive.” This research comes at a time when […]

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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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10
Jan

More Evidence Neonics Inhibit Social Behavior and Pollination Skills in Bumblebees

(Beyond Pesticides, January 10, 2017) Exposure to neonicotinoid (neonic) insecticides leads to a decrease in pollination frequency and fewer social interactions in bumblebees, according to research published by scientists from Harvard University and University of California, Davis. The study, released last year but presented this week at the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology’s annual meeting, underscores the need for regulators and policy makers to eliminate use of these chemicals, not only to protect honey bees, but also wild pollinators like the bumblebee. While worker bumblebees (Bombus impatiens) divide their tasks within the colony in a similar manner to honey bees, their nests appear quite different than their more structured cousins. “Bumblebee nests are not the organized, beautiful geometry of the honeybee,” said James Crall, PhD candidate in Harvard’s Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology. Instead, “They’re more a hodge-podge of food and larvae in a pile in the middle of the nest space.” For their study, researchers placed four bumblebee colonies in a mesh enclosed area, tagged each bee, and observed them foraging on tomato flowers grown in a pollinator-excluding greenhouse (to ensure bees had freshly-opened flowers for pollination each day). After observing normal behavior, bees within each colony […]

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21
Nov

Holistic Weed Management Benefits Farmers and the Environment

(Beyond Pesticides, November 21, 2016) The potential benefits of “weeds” have long been ignored, but a new study attempts to quantify the benefits of all species within an agricultural system, including the undesirable ones. The study, Integrating Insect, Resistance, and Floral Resource Management in Weed Control Decision-Making, by Cornell University scientists, assesses and updates holistic integrated pest management practices. In a discussion with the Cornell Chronicle, lead author of the study, Antonio DiTommaso, Ph.D., states, “Managing crop pests without fully understanding the impacts of tactics —related to resistance and nontarget plants or insects— costs producers money.” The authors introduced a weed management decision framework that accounts for weed benefits and illustrates that by allowing low levels of weeds in a cropping system, a farmer can increase crop yields and provide numerous ecosystem services. In a case study of an herbicide-tolerant corn cropping system, which had been controlled primarily with glyphosate,  the authors demonstrated that the European corn borer (ECB) could be reduced  through holistic management decision making. The  data suggest that, “Milkweed plants harboring aphids provide a food source (honeydew) for parasitoid wasps, which attack ECB eggs.” By maintaining low densities of milkweed in the corn field, farmers allow beneficial […]

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