Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Are neonicotinoid insecticide seed treatments endangering wild bees?

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“Federal protections may be the only thing standing between the bumble bee and extinction,” said Rebecca Riley, with the Natural Resources Defense Council, after the Trump administration released its hold in March and agreed to list the rusty patched bumble bee (Bombus affinis) as endangered.

Bee activists are now lobbying the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to list three other wild bumble bee species: the western bumble bee (Bombus occidentalis), the yellow-banded bumble bee (Bombus terricola) and Franklin’s bumblebee (Bombus franklini).

The designation has received mixed reactions in different quarters. While some environmental groups are celebrating, making the case that all bees are facing extinction pressure and that pesticides are the main driver, the decision has stirred a backlash among some farmers and supporters of the Trump administration’s nascent infrastructure rebuild plan. The designation could require landowners and businesses to apply for special permits in areas where the bee is thought to live, opening the door for legal battles over development.

Bee health concerns

The rusty patch designation has also stirred a good deal of controversy because of questions about what might be causing the bees’ health problems and whether endangered-species status is the best approach to deal with the problem. It’s a vague statute that poses serious implications for farmers and for infrastructure improvements—and the job creation that goes with them—because they will inevitably be challenged by opposition groups........Rusty patched bumble bees are “generalists,” meaning they feed on a variety of flowering plants and can live in many different habitats, such as prairies, woodlands, marshes and agricultural landscapes. If pesticides were to blame for their problems, then we would likely observe declines in areas where pesticides are most widely used, and we would see healthy populations where they are not. However, they’ve declined in areas where pesticides are never used, such as the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, a huge area that encompasses 816 square miles. .........To Read More....

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