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.
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.
Pollinator petitions, bills & regulations
H.R.1337 (United States)
Saving America’s Pollinators Act (SAPA) of 2019
The latest bill (following four similar bills in the last four congresses) seeks an urgent regulatory response to the current pollinator crisis. The latest version of the bill calls for the creation of a Pollinator Protection Board composed of various experts without conflicts of interest or industry affiliations.
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.
Add your voice to thousands of people around the world who want to protect the bees by banning bee-killing pesticides and chemical-intensive industrial agriculture and promoting ecological farming. The more people who sign, the more we can influence the governments and companies who can act to save the bees.
SumOfUs Petition (European Union)
On May 20th, 2019 (World Bee Day) EU governments are meeting to discuss how pesticides should be approved. Pesticides need to be held to much high standards prior to approval, with their impact on pollinators taken into account based on science and field studies (honestly, I think we need to do away with pesticides altogether; and field trials are not kind to bees).
There is also concern that the EU may be pressured to overturn their historic 2018 ban of most bee-harming neonicotinoids (neonics) for outdoor use. It is critical that EU governments hear from concerned citizens as well as from Bayer and Dow's lobbyists.
Petitions are one of many vital actions
Whether you sign a petition, contact your representatives, or submit public comments, don’t let these things be the only things you do for bees. There are so many ways people can help bees! Planting flowers helps so much, especially from organic seed or purchasing organic plants (neonics are still common in nusery plants). Just not mowing certain patches of grass helps, because flowers drop in. And leaving bare patches of soil for “solitary bees” to nest in. Even something as simple as letting dandelions live (they're great bee plants with a long-flowering season) and telling other people you know to do so too will help. 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).
Good news: EU 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)!
Good news: U.S. 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.