The California Department of Pesticide Regulation is out with a study showing the use of four commonly used neonicotinoid pesticides can harm bees and other pollinators.
According to the study findings, even the directed use of the so-called "neonics" on crops like tomatoes, berries, almonds, corn and citrus could be harmful to bees.
"We have been work on this study for a number of years," said Charlotte Fadite with the CDPR. "The good news is that the neonicotinoids don't seem to affect the bees if they're applied to most leafy green vegetables." That would include crops like spinach and kale. The problem appears to be mostly with maximum applications of the chemicals to crops like grapes, and fruiting vegetables, like egg plants or bell peppers, or citrus, they can be harmful to bees. Fadite said the means the state needs to take a good hard look at these pesticides and the restrictions on their use which are already in place. "(We are probably) going to increase the restrictions for farmers in the near future," added Fadite.
"The more we learn about the toxicity of neonics, the more apparent it is that pretty much any plant with nectar or pollen sprayed with these poisons is unsafe for bees," said Nathan Donley, a senior scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity. "This important analysis is further proof that it’s time to ban all outdoor use of these harmful pesticides on crops."
Joel Nelsen is president of the California Citrus Mutual, which is a voluntary membership citrus grower trade association. He believes the study was singularly focused. "Even a can of Raid under someone's sink can kill bees," he countered.
"The citrus industry does not need bees for any rhyme or reason," said Nelsen. "Once (the bees have) concluded their pollination needs, primarily for the almond industry, they basically go on vacation, come down to the citrus belt, locate on property adjacent to the citrus grove, and then they trespass or flyover to access honey from the blossoms that are in bloom at the time." However, Nelsen said that citrus growers leave the bees alone until the blossoms drop and the bees are ready to move on. "The bees are in fact a guest for the citrus industry, and for the (CDPR) to try to challenge the citrus industry, when they're accommodating the pest is a little bit disingenuous."
Both Fadite and Donley expressed sympathy for the growers who depend on the neonicotinoids to control crop-damaging pests. "It can be a real problem," said Fadite. "My heart goes out to the growers, but we can't have a situation occurring where we're using chemicals that are known to harm many beneficial insects just to give one crop a leg up," added Donley.
The CDPR intends to include citrus growers and other stakeholders in discussion about new regulations. "It does not make sense for us to do this in isolation," noted Fadite. However, she suggests the regulation changes are coming one or another. "We can not protect the bees if we keep allowing the new neonicotinoids to be used without more restrictions."