Pesticide-free zones for bees sought
Washington — The Obama administration has proposed a ban on pesticide use when honeybees are brought in to pollinate crops, aiming to stop losses after beekeepers reported near-record insect deaths last year.
The restrictions by the Environmental Protection Agency would create temporary pesticide-free zones when certain plants are in bloom around bees that are trucked from farm to farm by professional beekeepers, which are the majority of honeybees in the U.S. The pesticide halt would only happen during the time the flower is in bloom and the bees are there, and only on the property where the bees are working, not neighboring land.
The rule applies to virtually all insecticides, more than 1,000 products involving 76 different chemical compounds, said Jim Jones, EPA’s assistant administrator for chemical safety and pollution prevention. It involves nearly all pesticides, including the much-debated class of pesticides called neonicotinoids, he said.
The idea is “to create greater space between chemicals that are toxic to bees and the bees,” Jones told the Associated Press.
U.S. beekeepers this month reported 42 percent of their honeybees died in the past year, the second-highest toll since complete records began in 2010. Even with the losses, the commercial bee population has been steady in the past decade as beekeepers doubled the amount of money spent replacing hives.
Scientists blame many factors for bee declines: pesticides, parasites, pathogens and poor bee nutrition because of a lack of wild plants that bees use as food. The new rule only deals with the pesticide part.
The EPA proposal doesn’t apply to residential pesticide use, nor home beekeeping. This is just for areas where professional beekeepers haul in their hives.
Jones estimates that at least 2 or 2.5 million acres of cropland will be affected by the new rule. It only applies to spraying pesticides on leaves, not seed or ground applications.
The proposal needs public comment, then will be finalized. If all goes according to plan, new rules and new pesticide labels will be ready for spring 2016, Jones said.
Bloomberg News contributed.
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