NSAC's Blog

Honey Bee Protection Proposal: New EPA Rule Limits Toxic Pesticides but Fails on Neonics

June 4, 2015

On Thursday, May 28, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a proposed rule that would create temporary pesticide-free areas and restrictions on pesticide application to mitigate exposure on contracted managed honeybees. As this language indicates, it specifically aims to protect “honey bee colonies that are under contract to provide pollination services.” This rule comes following the release of the White House Pollinator Health Strategy Report, and is extremely important considering the drastic decline in pollinator health.

This proposed rule, entitled “Proposal To Mitigate Exposure to Bees From Acutely Toxic Pesticide Products”, would prohibit application of certain pesticide products when crops are in bloom and contract bees are working. The restrictions would apply to products that have: liquid or dust formulations; foliar use directions (pesticides applied directly to crop leaves); and high toxicity active ingredients.

It also proposes the use of state and tribal Managed Pollinator Protection Plans (MP3s) to address acute pesticide exposure through more regionalized efforts. These MP3s are a new development by the EPA that will involve state and tribal agencies to better communicate between the stakeholders using pesticides and those managing bee colonies. States and tribal groups can review this guidance document to help with the creation of a MP3 and ensure its success in mitigating the risks from acutely toxic pesticides on bees.

Critics of this newly released EPA rule believe that it fails to address one of the most pressing concerns to honey bee health: neonicotinoids. The rule does not cover the use of neonicotinoid seed treatments, which are a very common pesticide technique. These seed treatments are primarily used for insect control in soybean production, and are environmentally persistant. Despite their widespread use in U.S. soybean production, an analysis by the EPA found that these neonic treatments provide little or no overall benefit to soybean yields in most scenarios.

There is a large body of research examining the harmful impacts of neonicotinoids in agriculture. A recent report by the European Academies Science Advisory Council concluded that “there is an increasing body of evidence that the widespread prophylactic use of neonicotinoids has severe negative effects on non-target organisms that provide ecosystem services including pollination and natural pest control.”

The importance of contracted honey bees in pollinator services in the U.S. is vital and supports cultivation for up to a third of the U.S. diet. According to USDA Economic Research Service, fluctuations with honey bee pollination fees have been associated with colony collapse disorder and other diseases that have affected bee colonies. The top ten sources of pollination fees and shares from 2012 are seen in the USDA ERS table below, with almonds dominating the pollinator market.


Table from Report: Fruit and Tree Nuts Outlook: Economic Insight (September 2014), page 2.

The comment period for this proposed rule is now open. All written comments for the EPA proposed rule must be received on or before June 29, 2015.

You can view the Federal Register notice here, and submit comments to the docket here.

Categories: Conservation, Energy & Environment

Comments are closed.