Petitions, bills & regulatory action
There are a number of bills (see below) making their way through various legislative bodies, and it is important to give bees a voice with your representatives. Bee-protective legislation flowing from the top down helps a great deal in terms of preservation of habitat, regulation of pesticides, and listing of bee species as endangered (and subsequent remediation efforts).
Do not despair over the current political climate and the lack of governmental action. It is arguably more important to be working at the grass-roots level within local communities, planting pesticide-free flowering spaces, creating homes for pollinators, and sharing ways to help bees with your friends, family, and neighbors.
The European Union bans outdoor use of (most) neonicotinoids
On April 27th 2018, we heard great news for bees! The ban goes into effect by the end of the year. Neonicotinoids (neonics) are not bees’ only problem, but this is still an important step! Systemic pesticides like neonics are expressed throughout the plant, including in pollen and nectar, and affect bees’ nervous systems and learning abilities. It would be wonderful if the U.S. followed the EU’s lead here, but that seems unlikely currently.
It’s so important that these pesticides not be replaced by unbanned, chemically-similar alternatives. There are other very chemically-similar compounds to the banned insecticides currently being approved by the EU. The answer is to change the way farming is done so that we no longer rely on toxins with ecosystem-wide negative effects in order to produce our food… it’s simply unsustainable (we need our pollinators)!
Remember that people and communities drive change. Home users buy a significant portion of all pesticides (even when compared with agricultural use). If these people were to stop buying pesticides, and encourage their neighbors and communities to follow suit, pollinators would benefit greatly, and reduced demand would result in fewer of these chemicals being manufactured in the first place.
Whether you sign a petition, contact your representatives, or submit public comments, don’t let those things be the only thing you do for bees. There are so many ways people can help bees! Even letting dandelions live and telling other people you know to do so too will help. Planting flowers will help too, especially from organic seed or purchasing organic plants (neonics are still common in plants bought from nurseries). Just not mowing certain patches of grass helps, because flowers drop in! And leaving bare patches of soil for “solitary bees” to nest in. If many people did one or more of these things, it’d be great for bees!
Too often, when one pesticide or a group of pesticides is banned, others (newer or older) are substituted (this cycle is common enough to have a name: the pesticide treadmill). If we as a species continue to create newer and deadlier concoctions and spread them throughout, the Earth will be so degraded that it will be unable to sustain life as we know it.
So an important change is to move from an industrialized agricultural model (which favors monocultures that in turn necessitate more pesticides) to organic and agroecological farming systems. United Nations experts denounced the myth that pesticides are needed to feed the world. If collectively most people stop buying conventional produce, it will no longer be profitable to farm so unsustainably (externalizing critical costs to the environment).
Bills and regulations affecting pollinators
H.R.953 & S.340 (U.S.)
Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act of 2017
Sensible Environmental Protection Act of 2017
An attempt to weaken our already critically-weak pesticide restrictions in waterways. Pesticides in waterways have incredibly negative repercussions for wildlife (and people!) Pollinators may drink directly from waterways, and also forage at plants nearby that have taken up pesticides through their roots.
To terminate the Environmental Protection Agency
A bill to terminate the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA is far from perfect, and has often been influenced by industry (in part by having had funding removed for most of their labs, causing them to rely on manufacturers’ testing data rather than their own testing).
Nevertheless, the EPA is a good organization that assures a certain degree of critical environmental protection. Contact your representatives (the most effective thing to do is to call them) and tell them to reject this outlandish bill.
Saving America’s Pollinators Act of 2017
The latest bill (following two similar bills in the last two congresses that were never heard by the House Agriculture Committee) seeks an urgent regulatory response to the current pollinator crisis. The bill calls for the EPA to suspend all registered neonicotinoid pesticides until each is determined safe for pollinators (based on peer-reviewed science). The bill also seeks to ban the EPA from registering any pesticides applied to bee-attractive plants, until these have undergone peer-reviewed testing to prove their safety.
Importantly, the bill mentions that these scientific studies take into account chronic, low-level exposures, as well as the cumulative effects of multiple chemical exposures, and that there be actual field trials. Additionally, the bill calls for monitoring of pollinator populations and their health. Contact your representatives (the most effective thing to do is to call them) and tell them to support this vital bill.
SB 602 (California)
California Pollinator Protection Act
Requires labeling all seeds and plants pre-treated with neonicotinoids (neonics), so that people buying plants they think are “bee friendly” are not inadvertently poisoning pollinators. The bill would also restrict the sale of neonics to certified applicators, farmers, and veterinarians, helping prevent overuse by the general public.
SB 929 (Oregon)
Oregon Pollinator Protection Act
Places restrictions on consumer purchase and use of controversial systemic pesticides known as neonicotinoids (neonics). Although neonics are used by farmers, they’re also used by home gardeners, often unwittingly and in greater quantities and frequencies than the labels allow. To protect pollinators and other wildlife, we should restrict the sale of these dangerous chemicals.
Pollinator Relevant Legislation
Minnesota formulated action steps steps to help protect its pollinators, recognizing neonics as a danger to bees and the state’s crops. These steps are moving forward, but two pieces of the plan required legislative approval.
The first is a pollinator account fund, which is part of the omnibus agricultural finance bill. The second would have allowed the state to monitor and regulate pesticide-coated seeds (the most common type of neonic application), but unfortunately lawmakers stripped such provisions in mid-March, and are actively trying to rollback pesticide regulations.
SB 386 / HB 830 (Maryland)
Maryland’s governor signed into law a ban on pesticides known to harm pollinators on state land designated as pollinator habitat. This common-sense approach precludes the use of neonicotinoids and neonic-coated seeds in critical bee habitat.
Petition to Minister McKenna to act on the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada’s recommendations to protect six wild bee species under the Species at Risk Act (SARA). The endangered species are the Gypsy Cuckoo Bumble Bee, Western Bumble Bee (Bombus occidentalis), Western Bumble Bee (Bombus occidentals mckayi), Macropis Cuckoo Bee, Yellow-banded Bumble Bee, and the Sable Island Sweat Bee
Endangered Species Protection
At the end of 2016, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service listed the first bees as endangered (seven bee species endemic to Hawaii). This January, they added the first bumble bee (the rusty-patched bumble bee) to the endangered species list (this bee’s populations, across a once—broad range of 28 states—have declined by 87% since the late 90s). Although there was a delay in the listing going into effect, the good news is that it became effective March 21, 2017. Listing bee species as endangered is important because conservation efforts and remediation to help these bees will help many of our other pollinators.
It’s interesting to note that a number of industry groups (American Petroleum Institute, CropLife America, Independent Petroleum Association of America, National Association of Home Builders, National Cotton Council, and National Rural Electric Cooperative Association) petitioned the Secretary of the Interior to delay the listing of the rusty-patched bumble bee for another year. Their petition claimed that “Once the listing decision takes effect, virtually every industry operating within the species’ range – from agriculture and crop production to residential and commercial development, from energy production and distribution to manufacturing, will be profoundly affected.” I don’t see how protecting this bumble bee would bring modern civilization to a grinding halt! But not taking care of our bees might just do so.