Restricting Problem Insecticides to Protect Bees and other Pollinators
Pollinators are an important part of the world’s biodiversity and food system. In the process of feeding on flowering plants for nectar, pollinators (including bees, wasps, butterflies, and other animals) move pollen around, leading to reproduction in many plants. One-third of global food production is estimated to rely on pollination by bees and other insects.
Yet pollinators are in trouble. Monarch butterflies have declined by over 75 percent in just the last twenty years. Bees have also been struggling, both for commercially-managed honey bee colonies (with over 28 percent annual loss rate over a recent decade) and for some native bees (including the once-common rusty patched bumble bee, recently listed as endangered in the U.S.) Potential causes of these pollinator declines include habitat destruction, disease, agricultural and lawn and garden practices (including use of pesticides), honey bee management techniques, changes in land use, invasive species, climate change, or multiple stresses together.
There is growing concern about pesticides and pollinators, in particular a group of insecticides known as neonicotinoids (or “neonics”), currently the most widely used class of insecticides around the world. There are hundreds of different products (based around seven different neonic active ingredients) used on both agricultural crops and landscape and garden plants. Though neonics were developed in part out of concerns with toxicity of some earlier generation insecticides, there are increasing concerns with neonics themselves.
Recent research has highlighted a number of concerns with neonics, including their potential to stay in soil for multiple years (and contaminate crops and other plants nearby, potentially causing impacts to pollinators), affect bees’ ability to fly and feed, and interact with other pesticides (e.g. a fungicide) to become more toxic to honey bees. These types of concerns have led to policies restricting neonic uses, including a 2013 European Union decision to temporarily suspend use in seed coatings of three neonics, and a November 2016 proposal by Health Canada to phase out all agricultural uses of imidacloprid.
In June, National Wildlife Federation state affiliates adopted a resolution calling for the Environmental Protection Agency to suspend uses of the neonics, until further research shows no unacceptable harm to native bees, monarch butterflies, other pollinators, and other wildlife. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is currently evaluating five neonics, with complete draft risk assessments to be released in 2018. In these assessments, the National Wildlife Federation is calling on the agency to account for multiple threats to pollinators, including potential interactions with other stresses. In addition, we urge the EPA to ensure thorough review of any alternatively proposed pesticides to avoid the types of risks to pollinators or other wildlife currently posed by neonics.
Four actions you can take to help:
🐝 Monitor EPA action on this issue and submit comments to EPA urging a comprehensive assessments, as well as suspension of neonic registration while the evaluation process is underway.
🐝 Commit to not using pesticides on your property. Learn more about NWF’s Garden for Wildlife program, which is educating gardeners, growers, garden centers and the seed industry on the need to grow food and host plant sources for pollinators and other wildlife with sustainable practices.
🐝You can also take action by certifying habitat gardens where you live, work, play, learn and worship. Learn more on what you can do to help pollinators.