Pollinator Protection

Proposal to Protect Bees from Acutely Toxic Pesticides

Read EPA’s Proposal to Mitigate Bee Exposure to Acutely Toxic Pesticides at www.regulations.gov in docket EPA-HQ-OPP-2014-0818.

EPA is proposing restrictions to protect bees used for pollination services from harmful pesticide exposure. Large numbers of bees may be exposed to pesticide spray when growers contract with beekeepers to provide pollination services. EPA believes that strong regulatory measures should be in place to protect bees used for pollination services.

Learn more about EPA’s proposal to mitigate bee exposure to acutely toxic pesticides:

Proposed Restrictions

EPA is proposing to prohibit the applications of pesticides that are toxic to bees when crops are in bloom and bees are under contract for pollination services. These restrictions would prohibit application of most insecticides and some herbicides during bloom.

Growers routinely contract with honey bee keepers to bring in bees to pollinate their crops that require insect pollination. Bees are typically present during the period the crops are in bloom. Application of pesticides during this period can significantly affect the health of bees.

These restrictions are expected to reduce the likelihood of high levels of pesticide exposure and mortality for bees providing pollination services. Moreover, EPA believes these additional measures to protect bees providing pollination services will protect other pollinators as well.

The proposed restrictions would apply to all products that have:

  • Liquid or dust formulations as applied;
  • Foliar use (applying pesticides directly to crop leaves) directions for use on crops; and
  • Active ingredients that have been determined via testing to have high toxicity for bees (less than 11 micrograms per bee).

The proposed restrictions would not replace more restrictive, chemical-specific, bee-protective provisions that may already be on a product label. Additionally, the proposed label restrictions would not apply to applications made in support of a government-declared public health response, such as use for wide area mosquito control. There would be no other exceptions to these proposed restrictions.

The list of registered active ingredients that meet the acute toxicity criteria is included as Appendix A of EPA’s proposal.

At this time, EPA is not proposing changes to product labels for managed bees not being used for pollination services.

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State and Tribal Managed Pollinator Protection Plans

EPA is working with state and tribal agencies to develop and implement local pollinator protection plans, known as Managed Pollinator Protection Plans (MP3s). EPA is promoting MP3s to address the use of highly toxic pesticides in areas other than where bees are brought onsite to provide contract pollination services. However, states and tribes have the flexibility to determine the scope of an MP3 that best responds to pollinator issues in their regions. For example, state and tribal MP3s may address pesticide-related risks to all pollinators, including managed bees and wild pollinators. EPA believes these plans can articulate means through which growers, applicators, and beekeepers can quickly and effectively communicate to one another about pesticide applications in close proximity to managed colonies.

The State FIFRA Issues Research and Evaluation Group developed a guidance document to assist states with the development of MP3s (PDF) (7 pp, 119.28 K, About PDF) Exit, which includes a recommendation to evaluate the effectiveness of MP3s in reducing pesticide exposure to bees. Tribes may also find this guidance document helpful.

EPA will monitor the success of these MP3s in mitigating risks to bees from highly toxic pesticides on an ongoing basis and use this information when deciding whether or not further label restrictions are necessary.

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