The decline in honeybee populations has received increased attention from researchers and regulators. In 2007, the National Academy of Sciences National Research Council’s (NRC) “Status of Pollinators Committee” issued the findings of a two-year study detailing the serious problems facing the beekeeping industry, which was described as being in crisis mode. Since then the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and other institutions have started collaborating, but environmentalists and beekeepers don't believe they are doing enough.
In 2011, EPA formed a Pollinator Protection workgroup within its Pesticide Program Dialogue Committee (PPDC). Beyond Pesticides participates on this stakeholder group that provides input to EPA on pollinator protection related to the following themes: 1) initial science-based risk management approaches, including appropriate label restrictions and training; 2) development of information on state approaches and authorities; 3) transfer of lessons learned by various stakeholders to improve existing management practices; 4) continuing international communication; and, 5) other issues the agency wishes to bring to the work group’s attention.
State and Local
- Seattle, Washington (September 2014): The Seattle City Council voted unanimously in to prohibit the use of neonicotinoid pesticides on land owned or maintained by the city. Seattle is the largest city thus far to enact such a ban to protect pollinators in the absence of federal regulation.
- Skagway, Alaska (September 2014): Skagway passed a comprehensive vegetative maintenance pesticide ordinance, Ordinance 14-15, making it the first municipality in Alaska to ban the use of bee-toxic neonicotinoids by government employees. The law prohibits the sale and useof neonicotinoid-containing products on all public and private lands in the Borough of Skagway.
- Emory University (September 2014): Emory University announced that it will be eliminating the use of this controversial class of chemicals from its campus.
- California (August 2014): The California State Senate voted 35-1 to delay a requirement for action on neonic pesticides until 2020. While advocates want mandates for regulatory action to protect bees, the timeline in the bill ignores that ongoing crisis faced by bees, beekeepers, and agriculture dependent on bee pollination. Assembly Bill 1789 provides the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (CalDPR) another four years to reevaluate neonicotinoid pesticides, and an additional two years to implement any measures that would be needed to protect pollinator health.
- Vermont Law School (August 2014): Vermont Law School announced that its campus is going neonicotinoid-free, making it the first higher-education campus in the country to earn official recognition from the BEE Protective Campaign, led by Beyond Pesticides and Center for Food Safety.
- Shorewood, Minnesota (August 2014): Shorewood became the first city in the state, and the third city in the nation to pass a bee friendly policy. The city council unanimously approved a “bee-safe” resolution that encourages planting bee-friendly flowers and restricts the bee-killing pesticides, neonicotinoids. The resolution encourages the use of bee-safe processes in parks, education to residents on bee and pollinator safety, and other bee safe practices. Neonicotinoids have also been banned from city property. While the city itself has not been using neonicotinoids, the policy ensures that the city does not use the chemicals in the future.
- Spokane, Washington (June 2014): The Spokane City Council in late June voted to ban city purchase and use of neonicotinoids. The ban does not apply to private use.
- Eugene, Oregon (March 2014): The City of Eugene, Oregon became the first community in the nation to specifically ban from city property the use ofneonicotinoid pesticides. In addition to neonicotinoid restrictions, the city’s resolution also expands Eugene’s pesticide-free parks program and now requires all departments to adopt integrated pest management (IPM) standards.
- Minnesota (May 2014): Minnesota passed labeling legislation, HF 2798, which will inform consumers which plants are bee-friendly. The move follows a commitment by two Minnesota state agencies to study the impact of neonicotinoid pesticides, which —given mounting research implicating neonicotinoids in bee declines— beekeepers claim do not go far enough. Although the bill does not address agricultural neonicotinoid use, it is the first of its kind to ensure that nurseries keep tabs on the insecticides used on garden plants.
- Minnesota (January 2014): The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is developing best management practices for managing and increasing pollinator habitat and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) is developing a plan to study the impacts of neonicotinoid pesticides on pollinators.
- Emergency Relief for Beekeepers, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) (December 2014): USDA announced that nearly 2,500 applicants will receive disaster assistance through the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honey Bees, and Farm-Raised Fish Program (ELAP) for losses suffered from Oct. 1, 2011, through Sept. 30, 2013. The program, re-authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill, provides disaster relief for farmers and producers not covered by other agricultural disaster assistance programs. Beekeepers who reported losses due to colony collapse disorder will be eligible, a move that many in the beekeeping industry welcome.
- Pollinator Listening Sessions, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and USDA (November 2014): USDA and EPA announced two listening sessions on pollinator health, requesting feedback to inform a strategy to address the decline of these critical species.
- Expanding Pollinator Forage, USDA (October 2014): Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that more than $4 million in technical and financial assistance will be provided to help farmers and ranchers in the Midwest improve the health of honey bees. The announcement renews and expands on a $3 million pilot investment last spring to create pollinator-friendly habitat in five Midwestern states, but fails to mention the role of pesticides in bee decline, or emphasize organic practices to help pollinators. The effort responds to the Presidential Memorandum, which directs USDA to expand the acreage and forage value in its conservation programs.The General Services Administration (GSA) also stated it is in the process of internally reviewing pollinator friendly guidelines for facility standards at “all new project starts.”
- Pollinator Guidelines, White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) (October 2014): CEQ announced new guidelines for federal agencies to incorporate pollinator friendly practices at federal facilities and on federal lands. Critical to pollinator health within these guidelines is a requirement that agencies should “[a]cquire seeds and plants from nurseries that do not treat their plants with systemic insecticides.” Further, the document states that, “Chemical controls that can adversely affect pollinator populations should not be applied in pollinator habitats. This includes herbicides, broad spectrum contact and systemic insecticides, and some fungicides.”
- Neonic Phase-out, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) (August 2014): FWS will phase out the use of genetically engineered (GE) crops to feed wildlife and ban neonicotinoid insecticides from all wildlife refuges nationwide by January 2016. The FWS decision follows a longstanding grassroots, legal, and policy campaign by CFS, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), and joined by Beyond Pesticides, to end the harmful practices. This announcement builds on the decision to eliminate neonicotinoid pesticides, linked to the decline of pollinator health, from refuges in the Pacific Region. FWS is the first federal agency to restrict the use of GE crops in farming in the U.S. and the use of neonicotinoids based on a precautionary policy.
- The Saving America's Pollinators Act (July 2013): Representatives John Conyers (D-MI) and Earl Blumenauer (D- OR) introduced H.R. 2692, The Saving America’s Pollinators Act, calling for the suspension of neonicotinoids.
- Presidential Memorandum, White House (June 2014): The White House issued a Presidential Memorandumon pollinator health to the heads of federal agencies requiring action to “reverse pollinator losses and help restore populations to healthy levels.”President Barack Obama signed a Presidential Memorandum that recognizes the severe losses in the populations of the nation’s pollinators, including honey bees, wild bees, monarch butterflies, and others.
- Pollinator Risk Assessment Guidance, EPA (June 2014): EPA released two tools in an effort to protect pollinators, the availability of its new Pollinator Risk Assessment Guidance, and new Residual Time to 25% Bee Mortality (RT25 data).
- New Pesticide Labeling, EPA (August 2013): EPA announced a new pesticide label for honey bee protection. Under the new guidelines, the label will prohibit the use of some neonicotinoid pesticides when bees are present, and includes a “bee advisory box” and icon with information on routes of exposure and spray drift precautions. Specifically, the new label applies to pesticide products containing the neonicotinoids imidacloprid, dinotefuran, clothianidin, and thiamethoxam.
- Pollinator Summit, EPA (March 2013): The EPA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture facilitated a public meeting on March 5, 2013, with parties engaged in activities to reduce potential acute exposure of honey bees and pollinators to pesticides. The Pollinator Summit was part of the agency’s ongoing collaboration with beekeepers, growers, pesticide manufacturers, and federal and state agencies to manage pesticide risks to bees. The aim of the Summit was to provide a forum for stakeholders to discuss and provide recommendations to protect bees from unintended pesticide exposure, especially dust in agricultural planting operations in which pesticide-coated seeds are used.
- Report on the National Stakeholders Conference on Honey Bee Health, USDA (October 2012): The CCD (Colony Collapse Disorder) Steering Committee was formed with the charge to help coordinate a federal response to address the problem of honey bee disappearances from beehives. A report presenting the proceedings of a stakeholder conference organized and conducted by the members of this committee found that parasitic mites remain the most detrimental pest of honey bees, but also lists acute and sublethal effects of pesticides as a primary concern.
- Ontario Ban (November 2014): The government of Ontario, Canada proposed a plan to reduce the use of neonicotinoid-treated corn and soybean seeds by 80% as part of a broad initiative to improve pollinator health. It sets a goal of reducing over-winter honey bee deaths to 15% by 2020, and calls for the development of a comprehensive Pollinator Health Action Plan. To address the regulation of treated seeds, Ontario’s pollinator health proposal recommends the creation a new class of pesticides to include seeds treated with pesticides. The government would then restrict the sale and use of neonic-treated corn and soybean seed.
- Prince Edwards County, Ontario, Canada (June 2014): A county in southern Ontario became the first Canadian municipality to temporarily ban a controversial class of insecticides linked to be bee deaths in Canada and around the world. Officials in Prince Edward County passed a motion prohibiting the use of neonicotinoid pesticides on municipal lands, effective immediately. The rural county also wants the federal and provincial government to “declare a moratorium surrounding the use of neonicotinoid crop treatments, as soon as possible, pending further study.”
- New Zealand Scrutiny (July 2014): New Zealand’s Environmental Protection Authority stepped up its requirements for a higher level of scientific evidence regarding the safety and effects of neonicotinoids -pesticides linked to bee decline- before considering them for approval. In June, the Authority declined an application of thiamethoxam, a neonicotinoid, for use as a seed treatment, citing risks to bees.
- EU Moratorium (December 2013): On Sunday, December 1, 2013 the European Union (EU) took critical steps to protect pollinators from the hazards associated with the use of neonicotinoid pesticides. Despite attempts by agrichemical corporations, including Bayer, and Syngenta, to delay or reverse the decision, the two-year, continent-wide ban on bee-harming pesticides went into effect.
- Proposal to Restrict Fipronil in Europe (July 2013): The European Commission announced intentions to move forward with a proposal to restrict the use of the insecticide fipronil, which has also been identified as posing an acute risk to honey bees. The proposal is backed by a Member State experts meeting in the Standing Committee on Food Chain and Animal Health. This proposal follows a European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) scientific risk assessment, published on May 27, 2013, which found that seeds treated with pesticides containing fipronil pose an acute risk to Europe’s honey bee population.
- Bee Recovery Zones in Europe (December 2008): In an effort to boost declining bee populations and to stave off further agricultural losses, the European Parliament overwhelmingly approved a measure to create bee recovery zones across the continent. The recovery zones will provide bees places to forage that teem with a diversity of plants rich in nectar and pollen, and are free of pesticides as well.
**Last Updated January 6, 2015**