With a story about the continuing bee troubles gracing the cover of a summer issue of “Time Magazine” the growing buzz over pollinator problems is only set to increase.
In mid August, the U.S. EPA announced that new bee advisories will be appearing on pesticide product labels that contain imidacloprid, dinotefuran, clothianidin, and thiamethoxam. These active ingredients are all part of the neonicotinoid group of insecticides.
“Multiple factors play a role in bee colony declines, including pesticides. The Environmental Protection Agency is taking action to protect bees from pesticide exposure and these label changes will further our efforts,” said Jim Jones, assistant administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention.
The new labels will have a bee advisory box and icon with information on routes of exposure and spray drift precautions. The EPA will work with pesticide manufacturers to change labels so that they will meet the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) safety standard. According to Ohio State University Extension entomologists, if the pesticide label indicates the product is highly toxic to bees, applicators must contact the beekeepers with registered apiaries (beehives) within a half mile of the target area if the spray application area is more than a half acre in size and the crop is in bloom. The notification must be made at least 24 hours prior application. A list of registered apiaries is available by calling the Ohio Department of Agriculture at 614-728-6987.
“The bee advisories will be highlighted on the label with an icon to alert applicators to specific use restrictions and instructions to protect bees and other insect pollinators. The new labels will also contain a pollinator advisory box with recommendations to avoid risk to pollinators,” wrote Ron Hammond and Andy Michel, OSU Extension entomologists, is a recent CORN Newsletter. “Currently, pesticide products considered toxic to bees and other pollinators contain label language that informs applicators about bee toxicity. These labels also have precautions for applicators who may be applying when bees may be visiting the treatment area. Ohio pesticide applicators are reminded that Ohio Pesticide Law already contains requirements for them when applying pesticides with a bee advisory.”
This follows up on a report issued in May by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and EPA on comprehensive scientific report on honey bee health, showing scientific consensus that there are a complex set of stressors associated with honey bee declines, including loss of habitat, parasites and disease, genetics, poor nutrition and pesticide exposure. The agency continues to work with beekeepers, growers, pesticide applicators, pesticide and seed companies, and federal and state agencies to reduce pesticide drift dust and advance best management practices. The EPA recently released new enforcement guidance to federal, state and tribal enforcement officials to enhance investigations of beekill incidents.
In addition to these changes, there is a growing amount of private and public research directed at preserving pollinators.
“At Bayer we are actually in the process of building a dedicated research facility called the Bayer Bee Care Center in North Carolina. We hope to do research at the center into potential new solutions for the Varroa mite and other bee problems,” said Robyn Kneen, with Bayer CropSceince. “At the bee care center we will do our own research and do some collaboration projects with other groups such as universities, non-profit bee projects, and government organizations like the USDA and NRCS. There are some great opportunities there.”
With more research, better tools for caring for pollinators and improved strategies can be developed to benefit the valuable insects. For example, there are some simple things that can be done on farms that can make a big difference for bees.
“Bees like a varied diet. They don’t want to eat the same thing every day,” Kneen said. “As more land has gone into agriculture, they are living on a diet of corn and soybeans, which is not particularly good for them. One thing people can do is to increase the diversity of forage that is available for bees by maybe planting some wildflowers or clover or creating flowing strips around the edges of the field.”
With greater care in pesticide use, additional research and some simple changes in the landscape, Kneen and many others are hoping to reverse the decline of pollinators in recent years.
“It is always good to remind ourselves about the importance of bees, particularly in agriculture. One-third of every bite of food we eat comes from crops that are pollinated by bees, particularly some of the more exciting foods in our diet such as fruits and nuts and vegetables. They all require the service of pollinators,” she said. “It is a challenge for beekeepers to keep their bees healthy. It is well understood that there are a number of factors affecting bee health.”
For more on the importance of pollinators and what is being done to protect them, visit bayercropscience.us/our-commitment/bee-health.
More on the EPA’s label changes and pollinator protection efforts: http://www.epa.gov/opp00001/ecosystem/pollinator/index.html. View the infographic on EPA’s new bee advisory box: