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Daily News Blog

12
Nov

Fines Totaling $16,000 Issued for Pesticide Applicator and Company Role in Bee Deaths

(Beyond Pesticides, November 12, 2014) The Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) has issued two civil penalties totaling $16,000 in connection with a pesticide application of imidacloprid, a chemical in the neonicotinoid class of insecticides connected to widespread bee decline, this summer that resulted in the death of nearly 1,000 bees at a Eugene apartment complex. Although ODA is taking actions to address pollinator protection, the frequent and continued occurrence of pesticide-related bee deaths indicates that current laws still fall woefully short of preventing these incidences.

oda sealODA’s Pesticide Program conducted an investigation that determined that Glass Tree Care and Spray Service, Inc. and its pesticide applicator violated Oregon’s pesticide control law through gross negligence. ODA is authorized to issue a civil penalty of up to $10,000 for violations that are the result of gross negligence, the maximum in this case issued to the company, a commercial pest control  operator based in Eugene. In addition, the applicator, James P. Mischkot, Jr., was issued a $6,000 civil penalty.

When the incident in Eugene occurred, the trees were in full bloom and attracting pollinators.  In this case, ODA determined that the company and its applicator knew or should have known of this standard of care, yet disregarded it.

The reasonable standard of care for pesticide application activities in Oregon includes anticipating the presence of pollinators in Oregon. Last year, ODA adopted a label requirement on pesticide products containing imidacloprid and dinotefuran stating that the application of these products on linden trees and other Tilia species was prohibited. The regulation was a response to high-profile bee deaths last year in which 50,000 bumblebees, likely representing over 300 colonies, were found dead or dying in Wilsonville due to use of  dinotefuran, followed by the deaths of hundreds of bees a week later after the same pesticide was used in the neighboring town of Hillsboro.

Neonicotinoids, including dinotefuran, can be broadly applied as a spray, soil drench, or seed treatment. However, the ability of these chemicals to translocate through a plant as it grows has led to the creation of a large market within chemical-intensive landscaping and agriculture. Once these systemic pesticides are taken up by a plant’s vascular system, they are expressed through pollen, nectar, and guttation droplets  that pollinators, such as bees, come into contact with while  foraging, pollinating,  and drinking. Neonicotinoids kill sucking and chewing insects by disrupting their nervous systems. 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 neonicotinoids on pollinator health can be found on Beyond Pesticides’  What the Science Shows  webpage.

Eugene became the first community in the nation to specifically ban from city property the use of  neonicotinoid pesticides. Other communities across the country are also taking initiative in addressing bee decline by restricting or banning the use of neonicotinoids, including Shorewood (Minnesota), Spokane  (Washington),  Emory University,  and University of Vermont Law School.

Over the past few years, Beyond Pesticides, other advocacy groups, and beekeepers have filed  legal petitions and lawsuits  with EPA, calling on the agency to suspend the use of neonicotinoids. Yet, years later the agency has refused and indicated it will review the registration status of the neonicotinoids by 2018. The White House  issued a  presidential memorandum  on pollinator health to the heads of federal agencies requiring action to “reverse pollinator losses and help restore populations to healthy levels.” The President is directing agencies to establish a Pollinator Health Task Force, and to develop a National Pollinator Health Strategy, including a Pollinator Research Action Plan by the middle of December.  The memorandum recognizes the severe losses in the populations of the nation’s pollinators, including honey bees, wild bees, monarch butterflies, and others and the impact to the agricultural economy. However, the White House recently  announced that it would miss the deadline  to provide a pollinator health strategy.

Meanwhile, the White House Council on Environmental Quality (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.” The document also 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.” In keeping with the recognition that pollinators need protecting from pesticides, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s announced this summer  that the agency will eliminate neonicotinoid use on National Wildlife Refuges.

For more information on how to improve pollinator health and habitat, see the  BEE Protective webpage, where you can find the  Pollinator Friendly Seed and Nursery Directory, which lists sources of seeds and plant starts that are safe for bees and not poisoned with neonicotinoids or other pesticides. Join efforts to protect pollinators and educate your community about the importance of these creatures at  BEE Protective.

Sources: ODA News

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides

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