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OCA's Save the Bees Campaign

EPA Approves New Pesticide Highly Toxic to Bees

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Environment and Climate Resource Center page and our Honey Bee Health page.

In apparent contradiction to its stated intention to protect pollinators and find solutions to the current pollinator crisis, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved the unconditional registration of the new insecticide sulfoxaflor, which the agency classifies as highly toxic to honey bees. Despite warnings and concerns raised by beekeepers and environmental groups, sulfoxaflor will further endanger bees and beekeeping. The U.S. EPA continues to put industry interests first to exacerbate an already dire pollinator crisis.

In January, the agency proposed to impose conditional registration on sulfoxaflor due to inconclusive and outstanding data on long-term honey bee brood impacts. At that time, the agency requested two additional studies-a study on residue impacts, and a field test to assess impacts to honey bee colonies and brood development. This week, the EPA granted full unconditional registration to sulfoxaflor stating that there were no outstanding data, and that even though sulfoxaflor is highly toxic to bees it does not demonstrate substantial residual toxicity to exposed bees, nor are "catastrophic effects" on bees expected from its use. While sulfoxaflor exhibited behavioral and navigational abnormalities in honey bees, the EPA downplays these effects as "short-lived." The agency says it has reviewed 400 studies in collaboration with its counterparts in Australia and Canada to support its decision. However, these studies do not seem to be currently available in the public scientific literature.

Instead of denying or suspending registration in the face of dire pollinator losses, the EPA instead has chosen to mitigate sulfoxaflor impacts to bees by approving a reduced application rate from that initially requested by the registrant, Dow AgroSciences LLC, as well as increasing the time interval between successive applications. The EPA also approved new pollinator label language it believes to be "robust" to protect pollinators. Sulfoxaflor labels will state language such as:

"Do not apply this product at any time between 3 days prior to bloom and until after petal fall."

and advisory pollinator statement:

"Notifying known beekeepers within 1 mile of the treatment area 48 hours before the product is applied will allow them to take additional steps to protect their bees. Also limiting application to times when managed bees and native pollinators are least active, e.g., before 7 a.m. or after 7 p.m. local time or when temperature is below 55oF at the site of application, will minimize risk to bees."   
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