Pollinator Protection: Advancing the Science
Sound science is the basis for the EPA’s regulatory decisions. Data used for analytical and regulatory purposes must be of the highest quality. The agency’s mission to protect pollinators is challenging given the critical role bees play in pollinating multiple agricultural commodities as well as the important role insecticides play in controlling pests in agriculture.
This page provides information about how the EPA is advancing the science for pollinator risk assessment.
On This Page
- 2013 Report on the National Stakeholders Conference on Honey Bee Health
- FIFRA Scientific Advisory Panel Meeting on Risk Assessment for Bees
- International Workshop on Risk Assessment for Insect Pollinators
- Web-based System for Reporting Bee-Related Incidents
- Supporting Research into Pesticides and Pollinators
The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the EPA released a comprehensive scientific report on honey bee health in May 2013. The Report on the National Stakeholders Conference on Honey Bee Health (PDF) (72 pp, 1.2 MB, PDF) states that there are multiple factors playing a role in honey bee colony declines, including parasites and disease, genetics, poor nutrition and pesticide exposure.
With regard to pesticide exposure, acute and sublethal effects of pesticides on honey bees have been increasingly documented and are a concern. The most pressing research questions relate to determining actual pesticide exposures bees receive in the field.
From September 11 to 14, 2012, the EPA participated in a Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act Scientific Advisory Panel (SAP) meeting on a proposed framework for determining the potential risks of pesticides to honey bees.
The EPA, in collaboration with Health Canada's Pest Management Regulatory Agency and the California Department of Pesticide Regulation, developed a White Paper describing the new risk assessment process and the exposure and toxicity data needed to inform that process.
The EPA adopted and has begun to implement this new risk assessment framework as we evaluate pesticides as part of our pesticide registration process and registration review activities for already registered pesticides.
The Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC) is a professional science organization that supports workshops designed to address important science issues SETAC held a workshop in January 2011 and brought together 48 experts from government, industry, and academic and non-governmental organizations representing a range of expertise including toxicologists, statisticians, bee biologists, modelers, beekeepers, risk assessors and risk managers from North America, South America, Europe, Australia, and Africa.
The conference participants:
- Developed methods to measure exposure from both systemic and non-systemic pesticides;
- Identified consistent methods to identify and measure toxic effects of pesticides to bees;
- Developed a risk assessment process for pollinator species; and
- Evaluated whether the methods for assessing risks to honey bees are adequate to estimate risk to other types of insect pollinators.
The SETAC conference provided us with important scientific groundwork for the White Paper we submitted to the SAP in 2012. An executive summary of the SETAC workshop (PDF) (45 pp, 902k, PDF) is now available.
The full proceedings should be published soon.
The EPA considers incident report data to help inform our pesticide regulatory decisions. After learning from beekeepers about pesticide incidents that were never reported to the agency, we worked with the National Pesticide Information Center to develop and update a Web-based portal for beekeepers to report incidents. Information from these reports will help us identify patterns of bee kills associated with the use of specific pesticides or active ingredients.
The EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs also accepts bee-kill incident reports directly. For enforcement investigation, incidents should first be reported to the appropriate state pesticide regulatory agency.
- The EPA is partnering with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service and National Institute of Food and Agriculture to study declines in pollinator health;
- The EPA has provided input to government and university researchers studying pesticides to ensure the production of quality data that is useful in our risk assessments.
- Our Analytical Chemistry Laboratory has developed methods for scientists to measure residues of neonicotinoid pesticides at 0.2 parts per billion, which is 10 times lower than what has previously been measured. EPA scientists have also found a way to measure a wider range of environmental breakdown products for these pesticides.