Breaking News! Xerces Posts Online Annotated Bibliography of Research on Pesticide Impacts on Pollinators & Other Beneficial Insects
Research on pollinators has skyrocketed in the past few years. In 2012, the Xerces Society published a report called "Are Neonicotinoids Killing Bees?" Their follow-up report, "How Neonicotinoids Can Kill Bees," has removed the question mark. A growing bibliography is available here.
Read Aimee Code's, Xerces Pesticide Management Program Director's, story here.
Researchers Kirsten Traynor, Dennis vanEngelsdorp, Jeffery Pettis, David Tarpy, Christopher Mullin, James Frazier and Maryann Frazier have published groundbreaking research in Nature Scientific Reports that reveals the sum total of the pesticides (insecticides, fungicides and herbicides) a colony is exposed to over its "lifetime" as a superorganism predicts queen failure and colony death. Most noteworthy, although fungicides have been considered safe for bees, they found that "fungicides with particular modes of action increased disproportionately in wax within colonies that died."
The study was designed to "attempt to summarize potential risk from multiple contaminations in real-world contexts." Rather than assessing individual bees, they followed more than 90 hives on their "migration" as they pollinated commercial crops, sampling wax, stored pollen, and bees along the way for pesticide compound content.
The research paper, “In-hive Pesticide Exposome: Assessing risks to migratory honey bees from in-hive pesticide contamination in the Eastern United States,” was published in the online journal Nature Scientific Reports on September 15, 2016.
ABJ (American Bee Journal) Extra released an excellent article about the study on September 14, 2016.
Bee City USA® Calls for Conversations Between Local Government Agencies and Beekeeping Chapters on Mosquito Abatement Plans
Tragically, millions of honey bees in Summerville, South Carolina, were found dead after Dorchester County ordered aerial spraying for mosquitoes between 6:30 and 8:30 last Sunday morning. The pesticide was the organophosphate Naled, used for mosquito abatement since the 1950s. Facing elevated losses and causing concern at the highest levels of government, honeybees and other pollinators are responsible for the reproduction of more than three-quarters of the world’s plant species and are vital to food security.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), “Spraying Naled can kill bees outside of their hives at the time of spraying; therefore, spraying is limited to dawn or dusk when bees are inside their hives. Because Naled breaks down quickly, it does not pose a risk to the honey bee populations…. For additional protection, urban beekeepers inside the spray zone can cover their hives when spraying occurs.” However, Dorchester County failed to directly notify beekeepers of plans to spray.
Bee City USA®, a national organization that galvanizes communities to sustain pollinators by providing them with healthy habitat, rich in a variety of native plants and free to nearly free of pesticides, encourages mosquito abatement districts across the country to provide beekeepers with ample notice of planned spraying so they can protect their hives as much as possible by covering them or moving them to a non-spray zone. By the same token, we encourage beekeeping chapters to meet with county officials in charge of vector control as soon as possible and each year to discuss mosquito control plans that protect pollinator health, and in the event of bee kills, how beekeepers will be compensated.
The mounds of dead bees near their hives in Summerville had beekeepers who were checking on them, but what about the other millions of wild non-honey bees living solitary lives with no keepers? Unlike honey bees, they are active early in the morning precisely when spraying is recommended “while pollinators are least active.” And what about the millions of moths, most of which are active at night when spraying is recommended?
Ironically, according to Zika Virus Net, the mosquitoes that may carry the Zika virus (Aedes aegypti) are a day-biting mosquito, most active during daylight, for approximately two hours before sunrise and several hours before sunset.” Furthermore, it “rests indoors, in closets and other dark spaces. Outside, they rest where it is cool and shaded. Unlike mosquitoes that breed in standing temporary pools of water, Aedes aegypti is adapted to breed around human dwellings and prefers to lay its eggs in clean water which contains no other living species.” Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, unless they are carried by the wind, mosquitoes generally are not strong fliers and generally do not travel more than a few hundred feet from where they pupated to become adults. Even though the CDC and researchers say larvicide is the most effective mosquito abatement strategy, communities continue using aerial sprays like Naled to target flying adult mosquitoes rather than their larvae.
In light of the fact that the scientific community is just now learning about this mosquito’s biology and behavior, we encourage much more public education, prevention efforts, and larval control before mounting widespread ground or aerial spraying campaigns. Indeed, according to Dr. David Pimentel, former professor of entomology at Cornell University, such spraying delivers less than 0.0001% of the insecticide to the target mosquitoes, and instead, releases 99.999% into the environment generally, threatening public health and potentially causing other environmental problems.
The professionals responsible for public safety bear a very heavy burden. Mosquito-borne viruses like Zika, West Nile, Dengue and Chikungunya are threats to human health. While West Nile virus has spread across the United States and Canada and numerous cases of Chikungunya have been acquired in Florida and Texas, to date there have been no reported cases of Dengue contracted in the continental United States and, so far, the CDC has only reported cases of locally-acquired Zika in Miami, Florida.
Unfortunately, according to Beyond Pesticides, “The more insecticides are relied upon to control mosquito populations, the quicker mosquitoes develop resistance to the insecticides.” That being said, Bee City USA is happy that in addition to the CDC’s advice about killing mosquitoes with insecticides, the CDC goes to great lengths to advise people to take precautions to prevent mosquito bites with the help of protective clothing, window and door screens, and repellents.
Experts generally agree that aerial spraying is at best only a temporary measure, which will not eliminate the problem. Moreover, aerial spraying may kill natural mosquito predators like dragonflies and damselflies, in addition to countless species of beneficial insects, including pollinators. Beyond Pesticides recommends, “To combat mosquito resistance, the dependency on chemical control must be addressed and lead to more sustainable methods, which include habitat modification, improved sanitation, and use of natural controls.”
For more information, see Beyond Pesticide’s article on Mosquito Control and Pollinator Health, and Mosquito Management and Insect-Borne Diseases webpage.
Bee City USA® is a nonprofit national organization that galvanizes communities to sustain pollinators, responsible for the reproduction of three-quarters of the world's plant species, by providing them with healthy habitat, rich in a variety of native plants and free to nearly free of pesticides. During the past few years, there have been calls to action both nationally and internationally to reverse pollinator declines. Both thinking globally and acting locally, Bee City USA offers a positive vision, which encourages individual efforts while facilitating creative, constructive community partnerships. Recognizing that we rely on pollinators (bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, flies, moths, beetles, etc.) for one in every three bites we eat, the program seeks to make the world safer for pollinators, one city at a time. Bee City USA launched in Asheville in June 2012. As of September 2016, we have certified 30 cities in 19 states as Bee City USA affiliates. In April 2015, we launched the companion program, Bee Campus USA for educational institutions and currently have certified 13 affiliates in 9 states. We helped Toronto launch Bee City Canada in spring 2016. Learn more at beecityusa.org.
Any unattributed opinions or positions are those of Bee City USA.
Under the leadership of Roderick Simmons, the Asheville Parks and Recreation Department has been moving away from synthetic chemicals for pest management and fertilization to completely organic landscape management during the past two years.
On August 10 after spending all day training Asheville Parks and Recreation staff in organic lawn care methods, Chip Osborne, president of Osborne Organics, and Jay Feldman, Executive Director of Beyond Pesticides, led a 2+ hour public workshop at Lenoir Rhyne University's Center for Graduate Studies. The workshop was sponsored by Beyond Pesticides, the City of Asheville, Toxic Free NC, Bee City USA, and the Asheville Alternative to Pesticides Coalition.
About 50 people, many of them from the plant retailer or landscaping industry, attended the very informative workshop where Feldman summarized the origins of our national pesticide treadmill and Osborne explained working WITH nature and soil biology to maintain healthy turf lawns.
Cities maintain large expanses of turf lawns in public parks and athletic fields. As the inaugural affiliate of Bee City USA, the City of Asheville was selected by Beyond Pesticides and Osborne Organics to not only engage in this training, but also to test the methodology at three city-owned sites: Martin Luther KIng Park, Pack Square Park, and a new community garden. They have tested soil samples from each location and designed a management strategy in response. This coming year they will collaborate on implementing the plan.
The Bee City USA and Bee Campus USA programs encourage affiliates to practice organic, "least toxic," integrated pest management as espoused by Osborne Organics and Beyond Pesticides. It was encouraging to hear Chip Osborne support reducing lawns and expanding flower beds generally for the health of pollinators and other wildlife, and explain that including clover in lawns is good for soil, since clover is "nitrogen-fixing." Indeed, until the 1950's, grass seed mixes included clover!
Buy Milkweed (or other native plants) in Bulk from Local Nursery to Re-Sell as Fundraiser for Pollinator Plantings!
This is the perfect time to gather your bee club or other groups to contact local native nurseries (preferably wholesalers) about a volume purchase. Be sure to ask about their pesticide use before you place your order and avoid that that use neonicotinoid insecticides because of their longevity in throughout the plant--stem, leaves and pollen.
Go to the USDA Plants Database to determine if a certain species is native to your county.
For example, you can plant milkweed plugs (delicious for monarch caterpillars) this fall and they will bloom next year. In the process, you can raise a little money for your community's pollinator garden program for more plants!
On August 21, Minneapolis made a bold move for bees. According to WCCB CBS Minnesota, their resolution means the city will now plant more food for pollinators and decrease pesticide use on land the city owns and manages. Three cheers for Minneapolis!
American Bee Journal Reports Pesticides Found in Most Pollen Collected from Foraging Bees in Massachusetts
According to a new study from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, more than 70% of pollen and honey samples collected from foraging bees in Massachusetts contain at least one neonicotinoid, a class of pesticide that has been implicated in Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), in which adult bees abandon their hives during winter. The study was published online July 23, 2015 in the Journal of Environmental Chemistry. Read more at American Bee Journal Extra.
The Pesticide Action Network operates a website called "What's On My Food?" It addresses pesticides found in our food as well as those pesticides' toxicity to pollinators.
Bring a friend and join us for this important workshop on Friday, April 24, the second in a 4-part series presented by the Asheville Alternatives to Pesticides Coalition.
6:00-6:30 Light refreshments
36 Montford Avenue, Lenoir-Rhyne University
Many thanks to Lenoir-Rhyne University Center for Graduate Studies, HomeGrown, Green Sage, Catawba Brewing and Roots Hummus for generously providing the location and refreshments.
First Home Depot required nurseries to label plants treated with neonicotinoid pesticides, and now Lowe's has made a commitment to phasing out sales of products that contain them.
According to Lowe’s 2015 Corporate Social Responsibility Report: Lowe’s is committed to regularly reviewing the products and information they offer customers and they’re taking the following actions to support pollinator health:
Thanks to Friends of the Earth U.S., the Center for Food Safety, and all the individuals that sent emails, posted on social media, and rallied in front of Lowe's stores.
Header photo by: Nancy Lee Adamson
These are the opinions and events of interest to the Bee City USA coordinator and Xerces Society.