Pollinator Protection

EPA Actions to Protect Pollinators

Pesticide risk management must be based on sound science, consistent with the laws under which pesticides are regulated in the United States. EPA has been working aggressively to protect bees and other pollinators from pesticide exposures.

EPA's actions include:

Regulatory Actions

  • Taking immediate steps to change pesticide labels so they better protect bees by being clearer and more precise in their directions for pesticide application. The revised labels include specific limits such as “Do not apply this product while bees are foraging. Do not apply this product until flowering is complete and all petals have fallen ….”
    • August 15, 2013, letter to registrants explains pollinator protection labeling the EPA will require on neonicotinoid pesticides to improve protection for bees.
    • Bee labeling info graphic explains in detail how the new labeling will improve pollinator protection.
    • July 22, 2013, letter to registrants regarding registered pesticides containing imidacloprid, dinotefuran, clothianidin or thiamethoxam
    • View these three documents on the New Labeling for Neonicotinoid Pesticides web page.
  • Issuing new Guidance for Inspecting Alleged Cases of Pesticide-Related Bee Incidents  to federal, state and tribal enforcement officials to help them investigate bee kills.
  • Implementing new data requirements and risk assessment approaches for pollinators as we review the registrations of all of the neonicotinoid pesticides. These advances in assessing pollinator risk are based on a public, external, scientific peer review on risk assessment that was held in the fall of 2012; and they reflect a collaborative effort with experts in California, Canada and Europe, including both regulatory authorities and scientists. These new techniques will assess the sublethal effects of pesticides on all life stages of the honey bee, as well as effects on colony health in field settings.
  • Accelerating and coordinating the review of the neonicotinoid pesticides in our Registration Review programSee the registration review schedule for each of the neonicotinoid compounds.
    • As part of the neonicotinoid Registration Review, six new pollinator studies are currently under way.
    • We recently released a benefits analysis for use of neonicotinoids on soybeans. We will publish a notice in the Federal Register soon inviting the public to comment on the analysis.

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Working with Partners

EPA works with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, state agencies, nonprofits and international groups on pollinator protection issues. Learn more on the Partners in Pollinator Protection page.

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Information on Residue Toxicity Time (RT25) for Growers and Beekeepers

Farmers and beekeepers can use EPA's RT25 data as a means of gauging the relative lengths of time that specific pesticide products may remain toxic to bees and other pollinators following application of these products to plants.

Bees may be susceptible to harm from direct exposure to pesticides applied to flowers. But pesticide residues generally decrease in toxicity as the chemical dries and time passes. RT25 data indicate the amount of time after application that a particular pesticide product in real-world conditions remains toxic enough to kill 25 percent of bees that are exposed to residues on treated plant surfaces.

Though originally intended solely to help EPA characterize and mitigate risks to bees during the pesticide registration process, beekeepers and growers alike have requested that EPA make its RT25  data available online. Some have used this information to select pesticide products with shorter periods in which the chemicals remain active and can affect bees, however these data are specific to formulations of foliarly applied products.

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Research on Pollinator Issues

  • We are partnering with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service and National Institute of Food and Agriculture to study declines in pollinator health.
  • We have provided input to government and university researchers studying pesticides to ensure the production of quality data that is useful in our risk assessments.
  • Our Analytical Chemistry Laboratory has developed methods for scientists to measure residues of neonicotinoid pesticides at 0.2 parts per billion, which is 10 times lower than what has previously been measured.
    • EPA scientists have also found a way to measure a wider range of environmental breakdown products for these pesticides.
  • We are working with the Pollinator Partnership to support the Corn Dust Research ConsortiumExit

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