Washington rejects restriction on honeybee-killing garden pesticide despite evidence of its deadliness

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Faceless, nameless bureaucrats in Washington, D.C., are once again demonstrating their ignorance of an issue by refusing to take a necessary action that literally could have an impact on the health and well-being of millions of Americans.

Officials at the Department of Agriculture are refusing to act on a request to restrict a certain class of backyard pesticides that are suspected of killing off scores of honey bees. From the Yakima Herald Republic newspaper:

The department announced the decision Thursday following a 60-day review of a petition submitted by Thurston County commissioners. The county, at the request of county beekeepers, asked the department on April 8 to limit residential use of neonicotinoid pesticides used to kill aphids, weevils and other insects on ornamental plants. The insecticides also are used on crops, but limits on those uses were not requested.

EU imposes a two-year ban on ‘neonics’

The department said there was not enough evidence to support the request. “There is currently no documented evidence that the use of the neonicotinoid insecticides on ornamental plants is causing a significant adverse effect on honey bee colony health in Washington state,” department Director Bud Hover told Thurston County commissioners in a letter. “Because it has not been established that this use is a significant contributor to the decline of honey bee colonies in Thurston County or elsewhere in the state, the proposed use restrictions are not appropriate at this time.”

What’s more, both the Agriculture Department and the Environmental Protection Agency has said that the dramatic decline in bee populations are due to a number of factors – parasites, poor nutrition, disease, genetics and some pesticide exposure.

State agriculture officials said they would continue to monitor studies and ask federal regulators if additional pesticide restrictions might be needed at some point in the future.

European Union officials, however, are less hesitant. The EU recently imposed a two-year moratorium on neonics because of studies that link them to harm in bees.

Forbes magazine online sums up the situation:

It’s estimated that over the past five years, some 30 percent of bees in the United States have either disappeared or failed to survive to pollinate blossoms in the spring. That’s about 50 percent more than the rate expected. The problem is direr in some other countries.

Others say the trend of bee deaths is historical and not related to neonics, GMOs or anything else related to biotechnology.

But whatever the cause – and the skeptics of neonics have no hard data to prove they are right and the advocates of banning them are wrong – it is extremely worth it to find out exactly what is causing them to die off, considering that bee pollination is vital to the maintenance of our food supply.

Less food, higher prices without bee pollination

“A third of all our food is pollinated by honey bees,” commercial beekeeper James Doan told CBS News. “I think people just need to really be aware that bees are so important, not just for honey production, but for pollination in the United States.”

He notes that bees pollinate just about all our produce – from apples and pears to green beans, pumpkins, and squash, and so on. Without them – or without as many to do the job – the nation’s food supply will suffer. Crops won’t yield as well, and with a diminished supply will come higher prices.

“Without them you’re gonna have higher prices that you’re going to pay for fruits and vegetables. And those higher prices are not going to mean better products,” Doan said.

He, too, blames neonics.

“They block the nerve endings of the bee, and so the bee is paralyzed and then what happens is they starve to death, so you see the bee shaking, and it’s a very horrific way of dying for a bee,” he said.

“We’re finding these chemicals in the beehives. We know they’re there. We’re finding them in the bees. So we know they’re killing bees,” Doan told CBS News.

Sources for this article include:





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  • Not just honeybees, it kills a wide range of insect pollinators. Stupid is as stupid does.

  • clownshoes1952

    Get your facts straight before you start spreading panic. The veroa mite is the biggest cause of colony collapse disorder. This is cyclical and bee population decline and recovery has happened repeatedly over history. Like every other pesticide the neonicitinoids are only dangerous when used improperly and over applied. It has been proven repeatedly that no risk to bee health occurs when properly applied. The EU members twice voted and could not agree if it should banned so the rules of the EU required the temporary suspension of use. Beekeepers should vet the process controls instituted by the farms they serve so if the farmers are over treating they can refuse to provide hives for pollinating. That will drive compliance and eliminate the problem, at least as it relates to this class of pesticide.

  • Merrygold

    Clownshoes, please get YOUR facts straight–Varoa mites have been an issue in beekeeping since the beginning-they are NOT the cause of CCD. Our over treatment of this mite has caused it to evolve to resist the chemicals used to treat it (sound familiar?) so beekeepers have had to treat with more toxic mite killers to “control” them. The bees are weak from not only mites, but our foolish “keeping” of them–i.e. hauling them cross country to pollinate mono-cropped fields of cash crops, taking their honey and feeding high fructose corn syrup, queen breeding and “management” (choosing queens and artificially breeding them instead of allowing the bees to split and swarm naturally), and constant treatment of mites instead of allowing them to naturally clean themselves of the mites. The bees are over managed and are dying because this is not natural. Throw in insidious pesticides and here we are.
    As far as properly applied neonics and other pesticides, see what happened in Oregon this week when pesticides were applied to blooming trees and killed over 150 colonies of endangered bumblebees. In general, people don’t read the fine print when applying chemicals to their lawn/gardens. Selling these chemicals over the counter for any Joe Schmoe who wants to “do some yard work” regardless of the need for said chemicals is the larger problem. And the government’s unwillingness to impede drug company profits.