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Field Study of Bumble Bees Finds Exposure to Chemical Mixtures, High Hazard, Flawed Regulation

Tuesday, January 9th, 2024

(Beyond Pesticides, January 9, 2024) A “landscape-level” study finds that typical risk assessment studies used by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and European regulators fail to “safeguard bees and other pollinators that support agricultural production and wild plant pollination.” The study, published in Nature (November 2023), evaluates the health of bumble bees (Bombus terrestris) as a sentinel species placed in 106 agricultural landscapes across Europe. The authors’ conclusions challenge “the current assumption of pesticide regulation—that chemicals that individually pass laboratory tests and semifield trials are considered environmentally benign”—calling into question EPA’s persistent failure to adequately regulate mixtures of chemicals to which organisms are exposed in the real world. This study adds to the body of science on pesticide mixtures adversely affecting bee and pollinator health. See here, here, and here. The failure to capture real-world exposure to pesticide mixtures in its regulatory assessments extends to EPA’s systemic failure to evaluate a range of serious adverse impacts, as noted by the agency’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) report. And, aquatic environments also have documented mixtures of pesticides, with the U.S. Geological Survey finding 90 percent of water samples containing at least five or more different pesticides. “We can take no comfort […]

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Pollinator Health: Common Fungicide Linked to Changes in Honey Bees’ Brain through Oxidative Stress

Tuesday, August 29th, 2023

(Beyond Pesticides, August 29, 2023) A study published in Insect Biochemistry and Molecular Biology finds the widely used azole fungicide, tebuconazole, has damaging impacts on the redox homeostasis (the process of maintaining balance between oxidizing and reducing reactions) and fatty acid composition in honey bees’ brain via oxidative stress. Acute, field-realistic sublethal exposure to tebuconazole decreased the brain’s antioxidant capacity, key antioxidant defense systems, and oxidative degradation and alteration of lipids (fats) in the brain. Thus, this study adds to the scientific literature on the adverse effects of chemical exposure on pollinator health, especially in sublethal concentrations. Degenerating cognitive skills can threaten honey bee survivability, decreasing colony fitness and individual foraging success. Much research attributes the decline of insect pollinators (e.g., commercial and wild bees and monarch butterflies) over the last several decades to the interaction of multiple environmental stressors, from climate change to pesticide use, disease, habitat destruction, and other factors. Pollinator declines directly affect the environment, society, and the economy. Without pollinators, many plant species, both agricultural and nonagricultural, will decline or cease to exist, as U.S. pollinator declines, particularly among native wild bees, depress crop yields. In turn, the economy will take a hit, since much of the economy (65%) depends upon the […]

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Pesticide Threat to Pollinators Decreases Agricultural and Economic Productivity, and Food Security

Thursday, June 22nd, 2023

(Beyond Pesticides, June 22, 2023) Since the early twentieth century, ‘migratory’ beekeepers have provided a critical service to U.S. agriculture by moving their hives seasonally to pollinate a variety of crops. Annually, commercial beekeeping adds between $15 and $20 billion in economic value to agriculture, which is a major industry in the United States, with 21.1 million full- and part-time jobs related to the agricultural and food sectors—10.5 percent of total U.S. employment. Before insects and pollinators like bees evolved to pollinate, pollination occurred through the wind, scattering the pollen from the plants and landing on other flowers that could reproduce. However, commercial pollination services contribute to increased yields. Without commercial pollination, food prices would rise, the farm sector would suffer globally, and the security and variety of the food supply would diminish. With the wild insect pollinator populations already in serious decline, commercial, migratory beekeeping is more than ever a vital piece of the agricultural economy. With pollinator decline, as an integral part of worldwide biodiversity collapse and the “insect apocalypse,” commercial beekeepers face collapse as well. The United Nations states that 80 percent of the 115 top global food crops depend on insect pollination, with one-third of all U.S. crops depending on pollinators, according to the U.S. […]

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Beehive Products Contain Concentration of Pesticide Residues High Enough To Be a Risk to Consumer Health

Thursday, May 18th, 2023

(Beyond Pesticides, May 18, 2023) A study published in Food and Chemical Toxicology finds pesticide residues in beehive products pose a safety risk from dietary consumption. Beehive products (i.e., bee bread, propolis, beeswax, and royal jelly) from beekeeping or apiculture are said to have nutraceutical (health and medicinal benefits) properties. However, a wide range of pesticide residues (i.e., tau-fluvalinate, coumaphos, chlorfenvinphos, chlorpyrifos, and amitraz), especially acaricides for killing ticks and mites in hives, may accumulate in beehive products up to concentrations that pose a potential health risk. Environmental contaminants like pesticides are ubiquitous in the environment, with 90 percent of Americans having at least one pesticide compound in their body. Many of these chemical compounds remain in soils, water (solid and liquid), and the surrounding air at levels exceeding U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards. Therefore, individuals still encounter pesticide compounds at varying concentrations, adding to the toxic body burden of those harmful chemicals currently in use. The research methodology includes a review of the scientific literature on pesticide contamination in hive products and a dietary risk assessment. The risk assessment calculation uses scientific studies to determine the recommended daily intake values and concentration data. Researchers compare exposure values in products to health-based guidance, determining the potential acute and […]

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Pesticides and the Climate Crisis: Bumble Bee Behavior Thwarted by Temperature and Chemical Exposure

Thursday, April 6th, 2023

(Beyond Pesticides, April 6, 2023) A study published in Global Change Biology adds to research demonstrating that climate change can exacerbate the adverse impacts of pesticide exposure on managed and wild bees. Temperature can alter the sublethal effect pesticides, particularly the neonicotinoid (neonic) imidacloprid and the sulfoximine sulfoxaflor, have on bumble bee behavior tied to fitness and pollination services. Both an increase and decrease in temperature can cause diverging thermal responses in bumble bee behavior. However, increasing temperature bares more severe behavior abnormalities than cooler temperatures. The pervasiveness of pesticide exposure combined with climate change threatens global species biodiversity. As has been widely reported, pollinators (such as bees, monarch butterflies, and bats) are a bellwether for environmental stress as individuals and as colonies. Pesticides intensify pollinators’ vulnerability to health risks (such as pathogens and parasites), with pesticide-contaminated conditions limiting colony productivity, growth, and survival. Now more than ever, people are changing their sentiment toward sustainability, with two-thirds of consumers stating the importance of limiting climate change impacts and 88 percent supporting greater pollution reduction. The globe is currently going through the Holocene Extinction, Earth’s 6th mass extinction, with one million species of plants and animals at risk. With the increasing rate of biodiversity loss, advocates say it is essential for […]

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Groups Challenge EPA on Allowing Toxic Pesticides that Do Not Even Work and Without Its Review

Friday, March 3rd, 2023

(Beyond Pesticides, March 2, 2023) On February 22, a group of 65 nonprofit organizations (including Beyond Pesticides) filed a citizen petition with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that asks the agency to close a gaping — and well exploited — regulatory loophole by revoking a 1984 regulation that waived efficacy data requirements in pesticide evaluations. This means that EPA has, for 39 years, registered pesticides without demonstrated proof of efficacy and benefits. The petition is aimed primarily at the widespread use of neonicotinoid insecticides (neonics), which are so harmful to hundreds of species — and to bees, other pollinators, and birds, in particular — that many advocates have insisted they should be banned altogether. Beyond Pesticides has advocated for a neonics ban because of their extensive harms to pollinators, multiple other organisms (including humans), ecosystems, and natural resources. The Center for Food Safety, Pesticide Action Network North America, Center for Biological Diversity, Beyond Pesticides, and other advocates have filed lawsuits in recent years to get EPA to act protectively on neonics and other pesticides. The coalition of groups in the subject case seeks to rein in a plethora of harmful impacts of neonics, given EPA’s overall lack of protective action. (For […]

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Neonicotinoids Combined with Other Pesticides Elevate Hazards to Honey Bee

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2023

(Beyond Pesticides, February 22, 2023) Combining neonicotinoid insecticides with other commonly used pesticides can result in synergistic effects on honey bees, increasing toxicity more than any individual chemical could, according to research published in Scientific Reports earlier this month. The data highlight the grave inadequacy of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) process for evaluating pesticide risks. Under current regulations, EPA requires chemical manufacturers to submit data only on singular active ingredients. Yet, pesticide products may be packaged or ‘tank mixed’ with other, equally toxic pesticides without any obligation to determine the toxicity of the material that is actually being applied. Independent research is left to fill in these gaps, and the data increasingly shows that toxicity with pesticide mixtures amounts to a roll of the dice: sometimes combinations are less toxic, sometimes their toxicities are merely additive. But more often than not, pesticide mixtures result in synergistic effects that make the product significantly more toxic than either individual chemical alone. To understand how pesticide combinations are harming pollinators, scientists began with baseline data on the individual toxicity range  that common pesticides pose to honey bee colonies. Research was conducted on honey bees reared in the Stoneville Wildlife Management Area […]

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More Dramatic Insect Decline Confirms Inadequate Action on Pending Biodiversity Collapse

Thursday, February 16th, 2023

(Beyond Pesticides, February 15, 2023) Areas designated to protect insects fail to do so for over 75 percent of global species, according to a study, “Three-quarters of insect species are insufficiently represented by protected areas,” published in the online journal One Earth. Protected Areas (PAs) act as a safeguard for biodiversity. However, PAs in North America, Eastern Europe, Southeast Asia, and Australia do not meet the minimum coverage requirements to safeguard global insect species assessed in the study. PAs are discussed in the 2020 Nature article, “Area-based conservation in the twenty-first century,” in which the authors state that, in view of the global biodiversity crisis, national governments must do much more to increase protected areas with “coverage across different elements of biodiversity (ecoregions, 12,056 threatened species, ‘Key Biodiversity Areas’ and wilderness areas) and ecosystem services (productive fisheries, and carbon services on land and seas).” The authors write, citing the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (to which the United States is not a signatory), “To be more successful after 2020, area-based conservation must contribute more effectively to meeting global biodiversity goals—ranging from preventing extinctions to retaining the most-intact ecosystems—and must better collaborate with the many Indigenous peoples, community groups and private initiatives […]

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Study on National Pollinator Declines Blames Pesticides, Pests, and Extreme Weather

Thursday, February 2nd, 2023

(Beyond Pesticides, February 1, 2023) Honey bee declines in the United States are “primarily related” to pesticide exposure, parasitic mites, and extreme weather conditions, research published by Penn State scientists have determined. Publishing the results in Scientific Reports, the researchers aim to provide a national overview of the range of factors harming bee colonies. “Some previous studies have explored several potential stressors related to colony loss in a detailed way but are limited to narrow, regional areas,” said study co-author Luca Insolia, PhD. “The one study that we know of at the national level in the United States explored only a single potential stressor. For this study, we integrated many large datasets at different spatial and temporal resolutions and used new, sophisticated statistical methods to assess several potential stressors associated with colony collapse across the U.S.” The results reinforce calls from bee health advocates in the U.S. and around the world: eliminate toxic pesticide use, the lowest hanging fruit contributing to pollinator declines. In order to create a more comprehensive national overview, geographers, entomologists, and statisticians all participated in the study, reviewing publicly available data on colony health, land use, weather, and other environmental factors over a five-year period from […]

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Wasted: Bees Become Disoriented and Uncoordinated After Exposure to Systemic Pesticides

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2022

(Beyond Pesticides, August 23, 2022) Bees exposed to systemic insecticides become disoriented and cannot walk straight, showing evidence of brain damage in areas that coordinate movement, according to research published in Frontiers in Insect Science. Although scientific studies and regulatory determinations have already provided ample evidence implicating systemic insecticides like the neonicotinoids and sulfoxaflor with pollinator danger and decline, new research continues to fill in the remaining gaps. “Here we show that commonly used insecticides like sulfoxaflor and the neonicotinoid imidacloprid can profoundly impair the visually guided behavior of honey bees,” said lead author Rachel H Parkinson, PhD, a scientist at the University of Oxford. “Our results are reason for concern because the ability of bees to respond appropriately to visual information is crucial for their flight and navigation, and thus their survival.” Honey bees rely on landmarks, the direction of sunlight, and wide-field visual motion to orient themselves in a landscape, find nectar and pollen, and bring it back to the hive. While sunlight provides a compass, wide-field visual motion helps bees adjust speed and altitude, and determine where they are relative to known landmarks. Worker bees use this innate ability to reorient themselves to food or their hive […]

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Disappearance of California Bumble Bees Calls for Urgent Protection of Pollinators Nationwide

Thursday, June 23rd, 2022

(Beyond Pesticides, June 23, 2022) In the first California statewide bumble bee census in 40 years, a University of California—Riverside (UCR) study, published in Ecology and Evolution, reveals that once common bumble bee species in California are disappearing from the ecosystem. Wild pollinators like bumble bees provide pollination to billions of dollars worth of crops each year as these insects can flourish in cooler habitats and lower light levels than commercial honey bees. However, pollinators (such as bees, monarch butterflies, and bats) are a bellwether for environmental stress as individuals and as colonies. Both wild and commercial bees and other pollinators encounter multiple stressors, including pesticides, parasites, and poor nutrition, that act together to increase the risk of bee mortality. Therefore, studies like these highlight the need to establish monitoring and conservation frameworks incorporating varying habitats and species to assess fluctuations in biodiversity. The study notes, “Specifically, our study shows that greater monitoring of the diverse bumble bees of California is needed in order to better understand the drivers of biodiversity and decline in this genus, and to more effectively manage bumble bee conservation in the state.”  Researchers compared data on bumble bee populations in California in 1980 and 2020. After collecting bumble […]

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Literature Review Adds to the Growing Evidence that Inert Ingredients Are Toxic to Pollinators

Thursday, April 21st, 2022

(Beyond Pesticides, April 21, 2022) A literature review published in Royal Society finds that ‘inert’ ingredients’ in pesticide formulations adversely affect the health of bees and other wild pollinators. Inert ingredients, also known as “other” ingredients, and not disclosed by name on pesticide product labels, facilitate the action of active ingredients targeting a specific pest. Although both ingredients have chemical and biological activity, most studies on agricultural chemical toxicity focus on the active ingredient, assuming that inert ingredients are “nontoxic.” The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in regulating pesticides, assesses the toxicity of individual active ingredients on bees through various testing methods. However, there are no requirements for EPA to test inert ingredients to the same degree, despite evidence demonstrating these chemicals harm pollinators. Moreover, EPA does not require pesticide manufacturers to disclose the inert ingredients used in any product as the information is confidential. Both wild and commercial bees and other pollinators encounter multiple stressors, including pesticides, parasites, and poor nutrition, that act together to increase the risk of bee mortality. Therefore, reviews like these highlight the need for pesticide testing to consider the effects of all product ingredients, regardless of perceived toxicity. The researchers caution, “We argue that ‘inert’ ingredients […]

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Court Steps In to Stop Pesticide Use Not Adequately Regulated, Protects Bees

Friday, December 10th, 2021

(Beyond Pesticides, December 10, 2021) In a win for pollinators, a California Superior Court has issued a ruling that sulfoxaflor, a systemic pesticide that is “field legal” but “bee lethal,” can no longer be used in the state. The suit was brought by the Pollinator Stewardship Council and the American Beekeeping Federation. The ruling of the Superior Court of the State of California for Alameda County finds that the argument of the petitioners — that sulfoxaflor approval decisions by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) violated the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) — is valid. Eliminating this highly bee-toxic pesticide from use in the state is expected to protect not only native bees and other pollinators (including Monarch butterflies in early Spring), but also, the many millions of managed-colony bees that are transported to California for pollination of almond and other crops. The suit was filed against DPR, Corteva inc., Dow Agrosciences LLC, the Siskiyou County Department of Agriculture, and James E. Smith as Siskiyou County Agricultural Commissioner. Having found for the petitioners’ request for a Writ of Mandate (a court order requiring a lower court or public authority to perform its statutory duty), the court instructed the petitioners to […]

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Death of as Many as 107,000 Bumblebees from Neonicotinoid Insecticides Studied

Friday, July 16th, 2021

(Beyond Pesticides, July 16, 2021) Recently published research reviews the 2013 Wilsonville, Oregon mass bumblebee die-off from application of the neonicotinoid dinotefuran on 55 linden trees in a big-box-store parking lot. In that single event, the research paper (published in Environmental Entomology) estimates between 45,830 and 107,470 bumblebees from some 289–596 colonies were killed. Reporting on the new study, by Entomology Today, quotes primary conclusions of the co-authors: “Our study underscores the lethal impact of the neonicotinoid pesticide dinotefuran on pollinating insect populations,” and, “It is likely that the vast majority of mass pesticide kills of beneficial insects across other environments go unnoticed and unreported.” As Beyond Pesticides has chronicled, the U.S. and the world are undergoing a pollinator crisis, caused in significant part by agricultural pesticides. Dinotefuran, the neonicotinoid (neonic) that killed those Oregon bumblebees, is used against fleas, thrips, tree-boring caterpillars, emerald ash borers, hemlock woolly adelgids, and in the Oregon case, aphids. Entomology Today (ET) notes that the timing of this particular application could not have been worse: it happened on a warm day when the linden trees were in full flower and the bees out in force. Ironically, it occurred during Nation Pollinator Week. ET pens a […]

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Second Highest Honey Bee Loss in 15 Years Documented

Friday, July 2nd, 2021

(Beyond Pesticides, July 2, 2021) The second highest bee loss in 15 years has reported by the Bee Informed Partnership (BIP) in its 2020–2021 National Colony Loss and Management Survey, released on June 30. For the “winter” period of October 1, 2020 through April 1, 2021, approximately 32% of managed bee colonies in the U.S. were lost. This represents an increase of 9.6% over the prior year’s winter loss and is roughly 4% higher than the previous 14-year average rate of loss. For all of the past year (April 1, 2020 to April 1, 2021) the colony loss was 45.5%. Beyond Pesticides has covered the related issues of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), the ongoing and devastating impacts of pesticides on bees and other pollinators, and the larger context of what some have called the “insect apocalypse.” These recent BIP data appear to indicate that “we,” writ large, are failing to remedy these problems. Three out of four food crops globally depend on pollinators, at least in part. Commercially kept bees account for a significant portion of pollination of some U.S. crops; almonds are the leading crop, followed by apples and melons. The commercial bee business is huge — a $691 million […]

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General Release of Honey Bees Threatens Wild Native Bee Populations and Ecosystems

Friday, May 14th, 2021

(Beyond Pesticides, May 14, 2021) In a prime example of cart-before-the-horse, greenwashing, or perhaps “beewashing,” a British company has badly missed the mark in its latest attempt to market a product while “doing good” and generating goodwill with customers. As The Guardian reports, Marks & Spencer, the giant United Kingdom (UK) retailer, is releasing 30 million managed honey bees into rural British landscapes in what the company is promoting as an effort to support biodiversity and the beekeeping sector. However, according to experts and environmental advocates, unleashing that many honey bees may well actually harm both wild native bees and honey bees themselves. Critics of the move say this means that wild bees will likely face fiercer competition for already inadequate food sources. Beyond Pesticides adds that these honey bees have been dispatched to the same pesticide-contaminated habitats in which existing bee populations of all kinds face harmful exposures — exacerbating issues surrounding pollinator decline rather than solving them. Marks & Spencer’s Twitter marketing promotes the project in this way: “Did you know that bees contribute to a third of the food we eat? At M&S, we’re introducing more than 30 million bees to our Select Farms to help protect the […]

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Invertebrates and Plants Face Increasing Threat from Pesticide Use, Despite Declining Chemical Use Patterns

Thursday, April 8th, 2021

(Beyond Pesticides, April 8, 2021) Pesticide use threatens aquatic and terrestrial invertebrates and plants more than ever, despite declining chemical use and implementation of genetically engineered (GE) crops in the U.S., according to a University Koblenz-Landau, Germany study. Since the publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (1962), many environmental agencies have banned the use of pesticides like organochlorines, organophosphates, and carbamates for their devastating toxic—sometimes lethal—effects, particularly on vertebrates, including humans. However, this ban created a pathway for a new generation of pesticides (e.g., neonicotinoids, pyrethroids) to take hold. Although these pesticides are more target-specific, requiring lower chemical concentrations for effectiveness, they have over double the toxic effects on invertebrates, like pollinators.  Invertebrates and plants are vital for ecosystem function, offering various services, from decomposition to supporting the food web. Furthermore, invertebrates and plants can act as indicator species (bioindicators) that scientists can observe for the presence and impact of environmental changes and stressors. Therefore, reductions in invertebrate and plant life have implications for ecosystem health that can put human well-being at risk. Study lead author Ralf Schulz, PH.D., notes, “[This study] challenge[s] the claims of decreasing environmental impact of chemical pesticides in both conventional and GM [genetically modified or genetically engineered (GE)] crops and […]

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Honey Bee Queens’ Exposure to Pesticides Weaken Reproductive Success and Colony Development

Thursday, April 9th, 2020

(Beyond Pesticides, April 9, 2020) Honey bees (Apis mellifera) remain in severe decline, with U.S. beekeepers losing 30% of their managed colonies each year. A Texas A&M University (Dr. Juliana Rangel’s laboratory)  study provides evidence that chemical-intensive farming practices contaminate honey bee hives with pesticides that cause developmental delays. Researchers found that toxic pesticides adversely affect honey bee queen physiology and worker bee performance. Moreover, pesticides exacerbate the health risks associated with the declining honey bee population. When maturing honey bees’ exposure to pesticides is limited, there is an improvement in honey bee queen health and colony behavior. In agricultural settings, honey bees are exposed to an amalgamation of pesticides. AAFC and Texas A&M researchers determined which pesticides (miticides, insecticides, and fungicides) are commonly used in combination and then used those pesticide combinations to expose honey bees to field-realistic doses in the lab: tau-fluvalinate and coumaphos, amitraz, or chlorothalonil and chlorpyrifos. Researchers cultivated maturing honey bee queens in plastic cups coated with either pesticide-free or pesticide-contaminated beeswax. Honey bee queens were transferred into hives upon maturation and bred naturally. Researchers measured their egg-laying frequency along with worker bee entourage size. Post-reproduction, scientists performed a bioassay (a measurement of substance potency or concentration effects on living cells) on […]

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Monoculture in Crop Production Contributes to Biodiversity Loss and Pollinator Decline

Friday, July 26th, 2019

(Beyond Pesticides, July 26, 2019) The botanic denizens of wild and unmanaged lands typically comprise many different plant species. This is because nature abhors monocultures — the existence of a single kind of plant growing across some amount of territory. Yet, this is the dominant practice in modern agriculture, and brings with it a plethora of problems. One of them, emerging from an Argentinian study out of the Universidad Nacional del Comahue and published in Global Change Biology, is that agricultural production in some areas of the world is at risk because of this obeisance to monoculture in a time of biodiversity loss and pollinator decline. Monocultural agriculture, for all its perceived advantages — in yield, routinization of management practices, ease of harvesting, and others related to technological tools — also involves significant downsides, including: robbing local ecosystems of natural systems of checks and balances, thus making monocrops more vulnerable to pests and diseases — which in turn usually means greater applications of toxic pesticides nutritional impoverishment of soil by reducing available nutrients, thereby inviting addition of synthetic, usually fossil fuel–based fertilizers and other inputs degradation of soils so that they retain moisture far less well and cause increased runoff of […]

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USDA Shuts Down Data Collection on Honey Bees

Friday, July 12th, 2019

(Beyond Pesticides, July 12, 2019) The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced, on Saturday, July 6 that it would suspend indefinitely the data collection for its Honey Bee Colonies survey and report. The move came, tellingly, less than three weeks after the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) once again approved “emergency” uses of the pesticide sulfoxaflor, a bee-killing compound similar to the notorious neonicotinoids, insecticides that contribute significantly to the phenomena of pollinator collapse (“colony collapse disorder”) and massive insect loss (“insect apocalypse”) that are underway worldwide. Sulfoxaflor is one of the many toxic pesticides that threaten honey bees, which are critical pollinators responsible for one-third of the food we humans consume. Permitting its use and then ceasing to collect and report data on the status of honey bees that are likely to be impacted is not only a recipe for kneecapping the study of bee decline and imperiling the food supply, but also, another example of the corruption for which this administration is infamous. As The Huffington Post reported, “Critics say the USDA’s move is the latest evidence of the Trump administration’s war on science, and its goal of suppressing information about serious environmental harms increasing under Donald Trump’s presidency.” Union […]

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Study Finds Synergism between Neonicotinoids and Parasites Leads to 70% Declines in Honey Bee Survival

Tuesday, June 25th, 2019

(Beyond Pesticides, June 24, 2019) A study finds that the interaction of a common honey bee parasite with neonicotinoid insecticides causes 70% reductions in overwintering honey bee survival. These results help to explain the unsustainable honey bee colony losses observed in recent decades. Neonicotinoids (neonics) are a class of insecticides that share a common mode of action that affect the central nervous system of insects. Studies show that neonicotinic residues accumulate in pollen and nectar of treated plants, and, given their widespread use and known toxic effects, there is major concern that neonics play a major contributing role in pollinator declines. In the early 2000s, Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) brought national attention to increased honey bee colony losses. During the same period that CCD and colony losses spiked, neonic prevalence skyrocketed, in large part due to the introduction of seed-delivered technologies. As of 2011, 34-44% of soybeans and 79-100% of maize hectares were preemptively treated with neonics. While CCD prevalence has decreased, colony loss rates (and systemic insecticide use) remain high. A 2018 national survey indicates that U.S. beekeepers currently experience an average annual colony mortality rate of 30.7%, double the pre-CCD baseline of 15% losses. In the present study, […]

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Study Findings on Pollinator Declines: Neonics Increase Honey Bee Vulnerability to Mites

Tuesday, April 30th, 2019

(Beyond Pesticides, April, 30, 2019) According to the latest blog post from pesticide industry propagandist Henry I Miller, the pollinator crisis either a) is not occurring; b) is not a problem; or, c) caused by varroa mites, pathogens, and habitat loss. Notwithstanding outlandish assertions that there is no pollinator crisis, new research is further undermining the long-held industry claim that it is mites and disease alone, and not pesticides that are harming pollinator populations. Published in the journal Scientific Reports by a team of Canadian scientists, this research finds that realistic exposure to neonicotinoid insecticides impairs honey bees ability to groom mites off of their bodies and increases infection with a disease known as deformed wing virus (DWV). “When bee colonies began to collapse years ago, it became clear there wasn’t just one factor involved, so we were interested in whether there was an interaction between two of the main stressors that affect bees: varroa mites and a neurotoxic insecticide, clothianidin,” said Nuria Morfin Ramirez, PhD, at the University of Guelph, Canada. Dr. Ramirez and her team exposed honey bees to a range of different concentrations (low, medium, high) of the neonicotinoid clothianidin, with some bees receiving combined stressors of […]

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Study Finds State Pollinator Protections Fall Short

Thursday, February 7th, 2019

(Beyond Pesticides, February 7, 2019) A new study, released in Environmental Science and Policy, systematically reviews all state-level pollinator protection acts passed since 2000 and makes a somewhat dim diagnosis: as a rule, state policies fall far below the mark for protecting invaluable ecosystem services and ensuring long-term, sustainable food production. Authors judge the legislation against a set of pollinator protection policy benchmarks established in 2016 by a group of scientists from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). Citing the ten policy recommendations laid out by IPBES experts, researchers point to the failure of all enacted state policies to address three main target areas – (1) to improve genetically modified crop risk assessment, (2) to incentivize farmers to make the switch from agrochemical dependence to sustainable benefits from ecosystem services, and, critically, (3) to support diversified farming systems. Beyond Pesticides notes one additional missed target: (4) funding for research on organic, diversified, and ecologically intensified farming. The study includes a total of 109 state laws passed from 2000 to 2017, which authors tracked down by searching usa.gov and state legislative websites and by submitting requests to state librarians. To uncover common themes and patterns among these […]

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