The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is expected to announce a ruling that will create ‘pesticide-free zones’ aimed at protecting honeybee populations, which have been severely compromised in recent years.
Honeybees provide crucial labor to the food industry, pollinating as much as one-quarter of crops. But they’ve been dying off in record numbers, disappearing from hives and suffering from the mysterious condition often referred to as colony collapse disorder.
Serious demand for protecting honeybees in Europe recently led to the ban on several pesticides in the neonicotinoid class, which are believed to be at least one culprit in the bee die-offs.
According to Reuters, the proposed EPA restrictions are aimed at protecting bees from “pesticides that are acutely toxic” and “would cover foliar applications when certain plants are in bloom and when commercial honeybees are being used to pollinate crops.”
The USDA says that the last year was a particularly poor one for honeybees. “Losses of managed honeybee colonies hit 42.1 percent from April 2014 through April 2015, up from 34.2 percent for 2013-2014,” reports Reuters. It was the second-highest annual loss to date. Commercial beekeepers notes more than 20,000 bee colonies were adversely effected by pesticides used on almond crops in 2014, and Reuters notes there “are claims of tens of thousands more colonies similarly affected.”
The ruling would apply to pesticide applications on blooming crops where commercial bees are contracted to pollinate (beekeepers maintain commercial hives all across the country and help to ensure they pollinate specific crops). The rule would restrict the use of 76 active ingredients found in common pesticides, including the neonicotinoid class.
Despite the mounting research pointing to pesticides, and specifically the neonic class of pesticides, Bayer, Syngenta and other agrichemical companies deny their products are to blame. They point to mites and other issues as causing colony collapse disorder and bee die-offs.