EPA Issues Advisory on Pesticides Used to Control Varroa Mites in Beehives, Including Coordinated Efforts to Support the Beekeeping Community
Released on January 8, 2024
Today, EPA is issuing an advisory to clarify what pesticide products and active ingredients are registered to control Varroa mites (Varroa destructor) in beehives, what tolerances or exemptions under the Federal Food Drug and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) apply to those products, and how the Agency views the use of unregistered products to treat beehives for one’s own personal use. Additionally, EPA remains committed to collaborating with and supporting the beekeeping community and is providing an update on those efforts. This includes working with the beekeeping community to register new tools for managing beehive pests and working with our federal and local partners to advance valuable research.
Advisory on Pesticides used to Control Varroa Mites
Varroa mites are parasites that feed on honey bees (Apis mellifera) and transmit numerous honey bee viruses, both of which lead to reduced lifespan of bees. The health and longevity of a honey bee colony can be critically damaged by an infestation of Varroa mites. Once infested, if left untreated, the colony will likely die. Varroa mites are a national threat to bee colonies and in turn to farmers with crops dependent on pollination services provided by bees, and ultimately to food security in the United States.
EPA has recently learned that beekeepers may be using products containing pesticide active ingredients (e.g., oxalic acid, formic acid, amitraz, and thymol) that are not registered pesticides to control Varroa mites in bee colonies. In the advisory issued today, EPA continues to affirm that the use of registered pesticides must comply with labeling requirements under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), that pesticide residues in or on food derived from beehives (e.g., honey, comb, wax, propolis, royal jelly, pollen) must comply with any federal tolerances under FFDCA, that use of unregistered pesticides to control varroa mites cannot extend beyond personal use, and that there may be more restrictive state requirements that must also be followed. EPA remains committed to supporting states with primary enforcement authority to ensure compliance with FIFRA requirements.
Additional Efforts to Support the Beekeeping Community
In the past several months, EPA has registered two new Varroa mite control products (i.e., Varroxsan™ and Ez-Ox™ tablets) containing oxalic acid as the active ingredient. Each product allows for easier application of oxalic acid, and in the case of Varroxsan™, a slower release and longer acting application of oxalic acid in the honey bee colony. In approving pesticide products for use, EPA completes a robust evaluation and determines that uses of these products will not pose any unreasonable adverse effects when used according to the label instructions. EPA will continue to prioritize the registration of pesticides that target Varroa mites and continue to provide helpful information about these products.
EPA also continues to partner with the Interregional Project Number 4 (IR-4) to support the registration of new products to control Varroa mites and to provide guidance to beekeepers. IR-4 works with growers to develop data required by EPA for the registration of pest management tools for specialty crops. IR-4 has been instrumental in developing the required data to support registration of many pest management products allowed in beekeeping. EPA is exploring additional opportunities with IR-4 to further support the beekeeper community to combat Varroa mites and emerging pests of concern (e.g., Tropilaelaps mite), including identifying additional studies that IR-4 could support for efficacy or pesticide residues, leveraging IR-4’s knowledge to help potential applicants through the FIFRA registration process, and facilitating existing or new partnerships across public and private sectors to address challenges confronting the beekeeping community.
EPA, in collaboration with USDA and federal, tribal, and state partners, have been coordinating on several other efforts to help address this nationwide threat. For example, for decades, EPA has also been interacting closely with USDA on understanding and mitigating factors associated with declines in honey bee health. EPA works with USDA to determine the extent to which pesticides, pests, and pathogens may be associated with bee kill incidents. Additionally, EPA and USDA have been involved in research on Varroa mite resistance to pesticides (e.g., amitraz, coumaphos, tau-fluvalinate) and pesticide residues in beehives. Other efforts include prioritizing registration of pesticides, providing compliance support, conducting research on product efficacy, evaluating the factors associated with and mitigating bee kills, and developing models/tools for evaluating bees, integrated pest management approaches, and other guidance.
Please see EPA’s website for a copy of the advisory and additional information on the currently registered pesticide products for controlling varroa mites in beehives.