Does the Massachusetts Pollinator Protection Plan Solve Anything?


By Charlotte Trim

Feedback on Massachussetts Pollinator Protection Plan

So what does the Massachusetts Pollinator Protection Plan change for the better?  Well nothing really.  It’s 14 pages of carefully crafted waffle to avoid mentioning the crux of the problem: “neonicitinoid” insecticides. There are so many independent scientific studies showing this class of pesticide as highly toxic to honey bees and pollinators in general, it is hard to keep count. France just banned neonicitinoids altogether, we can’t even mention their name.

The EPA says beekeepers don’t manage mites properly, and therein lies a large part of the problem.  However, scientific research shows sub-lethal exposure to neonicitinoids increases mite infestations; reduces brood; increases broodless periods; and decreases winter survival rates for honey bees (1). The gut pathogen Nosema ceranae, another significant cause of winter mortality, is triggered by both pesticides and fungicides(2).  The reality in the field and Science overlap – what a remarkable coincidence – but still our unelected officials can’t understand.

Meanwhile our local pollinators are being decimated. Many, like bumble bees and monarch butterflies, are proving more susceptible than honey bees to the toxic effects of neonics.  According to the USGS, 90% of the nation’s water ways and streams are polluted with insecticides and herbicides, including neonics, despite the  catastrophic effect neonics have on aquatic life as well (3).  The truth is neonics are killing off all invertebrate life forms.

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Laughably, the EPA’s solution is to teach commercial pesticide applicators how to apply these pesticides more sensitively.   However, no regulation of the 100s of gallons of these insecticides stacked up in garden supply shelves across the state that residents can apply anyhow; no reduction in the application rates of these lawn products that use higher doses of neonics than conventional agriculture; no labeling for packs of potted “pollinator friendly” plants  pre-treated with neonics, turning food into death traps for pollinators.  In fact, the EPA won’t even ask manufacturers to disclose all the ingredients in pesticides, something eminent bee scientist Marla Spivak has requested for years.

One has to ask, who exactly is the EPA protecting? 50 million pounds of insecticides a year pollute our lands.  They are persistent, systemic and accumulate in the soil.  Furthermore, when combined, pesticides have been shown up to 1000% more lethal.  Nonetheless, with over 1200 agrochemicals approved, it is evident the EPA hasn’t yet found a chemical it doesn’t like.  Especially neonicitinoid insecticides.

In 2009 the EPA scientists conducted an assessment of clothianidin, a neonic used as a seed treatment on corn and many other crops.  In their damning 101-page report, EPA scientists concluded that “acute toxicity studies to honey bees show that clothianidin is highly toxic on both a contact and an oral basis”. Instead of suspending or withdrawing the registration of this insecticide like the European Union did, the EPA is waiting until 2018 to “review the data”. Yes, read that again.

I actually spoke to Jeff Herndon, Director of Pesticide Registrations at the EPA, on January 31st 2010 about this report and 3 other studies showing the catastrophic effects of neonicitinoid pesticides on honey bees.  I asked him bluntly what part of “it’s killing the bees” he didn’t understand? His response was surprisingly honest: “We’ve always known”.

Yes, we’ve always known, but we still pretend we don’t.  This Pollinator Protection Plan is 14 pages of empty words masquerading as “doing something”, when we’re doing precisely nothing.  It’s a boondoggle, a joke, a disgrace!

PS. In Middlesex County, we lost over 90% of our managed hives over the past 2 winters, not the 29% loss mentioned as “the problem” in the MDAR plan.

PS. Has anyone seen a bumblebee this year?

(1)     Assessment of Chronic Sublethal Effects of Imidacloprid on Honey Bee Colony Health.
(2)     Crop Pollination Exposes Honey Bees to Pesticides Which Alters Their Susceptibility to the Gut Pathogen Nosema ceranae
(3)     Macro-Invertebrate Decline in Surface Water Polluted with Imidacloprid

Charlotte Trim is a beekeeper, organic orchardist and soil consultant, living in Lincoln MA.  She says, “I see the potential for ‘regenerative’ agriculture to restore health to our soils and medicine to our foods (and probably jobs to the unemployed.)  However, I also notice that our government agencies, from the USDA to the EPA, and even our local ‘Farm bureau’ are all sold out to Monsanto, Bayer and the gang, and will do anything to subvert a healthy movement.  However, I have a backbone and I’m not giving up without a fight.”

This article (Does the Massachusetts Pollinator Protection Plan Solve Anything?) can be republished under a Creative Commons license, with attribution to the author and Natural

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