Many neighbors and clients in our region are concerned with the die-off of honey bees. On July 17, EPA released its decision to deny emergency suspension of Clothianidin, the pesticide accused of killing honey bees. The determination was in response to a petition filed on March 20, 2012, by beekeepers, honey producers and several environmental and consumer organizations.

The petition (available at regulations, doc no. EPA-HQ-OPP-2012-0334-0002) claimed that the use of the neonicotinoid class of pesticides, of which clothianidin is one, coincided with mass die-offs of honey bee populations in the U.S. as the result of Colony Collapse Disorder. It reported that 90% of flowering plants require pollinators to reproduce and in agriculture, nearly a third of pollination is performed by honey bees. Pollination by bees is claimed to be needed for one-third of the American diet.

According to the petition, the neonicotinoids are used primarily as a seed treatment for corn, which is the largest single use of arable land in North America. The petition reported that except for a tiny fraction of organically produced corn, almost all of corn seed planted in America is coated with neonicotinoids, primarily Clothianidin and a related compound.

Beginning in the last decade, populations of honey bees have fallen precipitously. Colony Collapse Disorder was first documented in the U.S. in 2004. The petition reported that each winter since then, approximately one-third of the U.S. honey bee population has died off or disappeared. The first reported honey bee losses occurred immediately upon the widespread use of Clothianidin following its conditional registration by EPA in 2003. The petition claims that there is clear scientific evidence linking neonicotinoids to colony collapse.

In its letter of denial of suspension for imminent hazard (available at regulations, doc no.EPA-HQ-OPP-2012-0334-0006) , EPA announced it would now take public comment for 60 days on the petition’s request for cancellation of Clothianidin. However, EPA stated that at this time it does not believe the pesticide has caused or will cause significant reduction in populations of domestic bees, a significant decrease in honey production, serious effects on other agricultural systems as a result of decreases in pollination services or a reduction in pollination of wild plants in a way that may alter ecosystems.