News / Science & Technology

US Pressed to Restrict Pesticides, Save Bees

Neonicotinoid pesticide imidacloprid is the active ingredient in many retail insecticides such as these. (VOA/T.Banse)
Neonicotinoid pesticide imidacloprid is the active ingredient in many retail insecticides such as these. (VOA/T.Banse)
Tom Banse
This is the time of year when farmers in the northern hemisphere count on bees and other insects to pollinate orchards, vegetables and berry fields. But what has the beekeeping world abuzz this season is the continuing phenomenon of mass honeybee deaths — and how governments on two continents are responding to them.
 
U.S. regulators on Thursday released a scientific report blaming the widespread decline of bees on the combined effects of parasites, viruses, bacteria, poor nutrition and chemical pesticides. For its part, the European Commission announced plans this week to impose a two-year moratorium beginning in December on the use of three popular pesticides judged to pose high risk to bees. Beekeepers and environmental groups are pushing governments in North America to go in that direction, too.
 
Beekeeper Mark Emrich checks his hives near Rochester, Wash., April 2013 (T.Banse/VOA).Beekeeper Mark Emrich checks his hives near Rochester, Wash., April 2013 (T.Banse/VOA).
x
Beekeeper Mark Emrich checks his hives near Rochester, Wash., April 2013 (T.Banse/VOA).
Beekeeper Mark Emrich checks his hives near Rochester, Wash., April 2013 (T.Banse/VOA).
For the past decade, many beekeepers around the world have been plagued by unexplained die-offs in their hives. It recently happened to Mark Emrich, who raises bees on his small farm near Olympia, Washington.
 
“I was doing great until about five weeks ago,” he said. “Then I came down and opened up the hives and I had five dead boxes of bees. That was a huge hit."
 
He lost one third of his production.
 
"It is very hard to deal with bee losses. They are kind of like your little livestock and you try to really manage them and take care of them the best you can. When they die off, you feel that you've failed."
 
Warnings about pesticides in the garden
 
Emrich sports a bushy beard and a ball cap with the logo of the Washington State Beekeepers Association. He's the group's president. Even before the die-off in his hives, he was writing letters to government officials, asking that some potentially risky and widely used pesticides be pulled from store shelves.
 
While U.S. and Canadian environmental health agencies have both announced they will reevaluate the registration of pesticides in question, those processes are slated to take years. Emrich worries that mounting bee colony losses means he can't wait that long, so he and his fellow beekeepers are petitioning county and state governments, calling for local rules to restrict home and garden use of common bug killers, rose and flower treatments, and grub controls.
 
"We have people who are using it who don't understand all the implications, and the labeling is inadequate as far as what it actually will kill,” Emrich explained. “So basically, the idea is at least we'll get it out of the hands of the general public."
 
The insecticides in question belong to a class called neonicotinoids. "Neonics," for short, appear in more than a hundred different garden products sold under global brand names such as Bayer, Ortho and Scotts. While a range of studies have shown significant adverse effects on bees exposed to high doses in the lab, separate studies using more realistic field conditions show minimal harm or are inconclusive.
 
Threats from many directions
 
Pesticide makers argue that banning neonics would not save a single hive. Barb Glenn, who oversees science and regulatory affairs for the industry association CropLife America, pointed out, "If we use these products according to the label, then we don't see an effect on pollinators — or honey bees — that are contiguous to these fields where we're using these products."
 
Glenn says it is in her industry's best interest to safeguard bees because agriculture needs pollinators to thrive. In her view, many factors conspire against bee survival: diseases, parasites, the availability of habitat, the practices of the beekeeper, and their own nutrition.
 
“Pesticide use is also a part of that continuum," she added.
 
Glenn's list looks almost the same as ones compiled by independent researchers with Britain’s Insect Pollinators Initiative, and by scientists at Oregon and Washington state Universities.
 
WSU entomologist Steve Sheppard said a lot of new research is focusing on the pesticide angle.

"There's not a consensus I think in the scientific community that the levels that are found in agricultural crops, for example, have been directly linked to colony losses," he said. "But some countries — in Europe, for example — have taken a more prudent approach to not use those pesticides until they feel all of the data are in."
 
That's also the gist of a petition for rulemaking before the Washington State Department of Agriculture. The department's initial response was to ask all affected parties to send in their best science. The state plans to announce in early June whether it sees enough evidence to draft tighter rules for home and garden bug killers.
 
Meanwhile, a coalition of national environmental groups has sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to suspend registration of two neonic insecticides.

You May Like

Americans Celebrate Thanksgiving

Feasts centering on turkeys with an array of traditional sides and desserts are part of the holiday's traditions, which falls on the fourth Thursday in November More

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

With two years left in term, analysts say, president has less to lose by taking conversation on race further More

Video Italian Espresso Expands Into Space

When Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti headed for the ISS, her countrymen worried how she would survive six months drinking only instant coffee More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Drake from: USA
May 11, 2013 7:56 AM
Europe is moving in the right direction while the US government is too busy protecting Monsanto from lawsuits, while the bees keep dying.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Community Kicks Off Thanksgiving With Paradei
X
Anush Avetisyan
November 26, 2014 10:57 PM
Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday whose roots go back to the country's earliest days as a British colony. One way Americans celebrate the occasion is with parades. Anush Avetisyan takes us to one such event on the day before Thanksgiving near Washington, where a community's diversity is on display. Joy Wagner narrates
Video

Video US Community Kicks Off Thanksgiving With Parade

Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday whose roots go back to the country's earliest days as a British colony. One way Americans celebrate the occasion is with parades. Anush Avetisyan takes us to one such event on the day before Thanksgiving near Washington, where a community's diversity is on display. Joy Wagner narrates
Video

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

Throughout the crisis in Ferguson, Missouri, President Barack Obama has urged calm, restraint and respect for the rule of law. But the events in Ferguson have prompted him to call — more openly than he has before — for profound changes to end the racism and distrust that he believes still exists between whites and blacks in the United States. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Online Magazine Gets Kids Discussing Big Questions

Teen culture in America is often criticized for being superficial. But an online magazine has been encouraging some teenagers to explore deeper issues, and rewarding their efforts. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky went to this year’s Kidspirit awards ceremony in New York.
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid