Environmental Protection

Gardeners BeeWare

EPA issues new label guidelines for pesticides and "bee-friendly" plants kill more bees.

In an Aug. 15 press release, EPA announced development of new pesticide labels that "prohibit use of some neonicotinoid pesticide products when bees are present." The labels call for "application restrictions," as well as contain a bee advisory box with information on bee routes.

The EPA requires the labels present on products containing nitroguadine neonicotionid pesticides, which scientists have linked to the declining bee population worldwide. Although low doses of the pesticides do not kill bees, scientific studies show the pesticides weaken the bees' immune system, make them more susceptible to viruses and diseases, and impact the bees abilities to find their way home.

The revised EPA labels followed on the heels of a pilot study released Aug. 14 by Friends of the Earth and the Pesticide Research Institute. The study found 54 percent of common garden plants—including "bee-friendly" flower and vegetable plants—purchased at top retailers contained neonicotinoid pesticides, sometimes at concentrations 220 times greater than amounts used on agricultural crops. The pilot study however did not measure pesticide levels in pollen.

"The pilot study confirms that many of the plants sold in nurseries and garden stores across the U.S. have been pre-treated with systemic neonicotinoid insecticides, making them potentially toxic to pollinators," said Timothy Brown, PhD, of the Pesticide Research Institute. "Unfortunately, these pesticides don’t break down quickly —they remain in the plants and the soil and can continue to affect pollinators for months to years after the treatment."

For information on a new U.S. campaign to save bees, go to http://www.foe.org/beeaction.

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