EPHRATA, Wash. — One of Washington state’s largest beekeepers says the reintroduction of a bill to ban certain pesticides to protect honeybees is an overreaction.
“Neonics are insecticides, and bees are insects, so sloppy or careless application kills bees. But the majority of applicators use caution and don’t cause major acute kills,” says Tim Hiatt, co-owner of Hiatt Honey Co., in Ephrata.
U.S. Reps. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., and Jim McGovern, D-Mass., reintroduced the Saving America’s Pollinators Act in the House on Feb. 14. The bill would suspend the registration of certain neonicotinoid insecticides until the EPA conducts a full scientific review.
The congressmen and more than a dozen environmental and conservation groups say studies implicate the insecticides, called neonics, as contributors to declining populations of honeybees and butterflies and pose risks to birds and aquatic invertebrates.
Some beekeeper groups support the bill. But Hiatt says while studies show sub-lethal effects on honeybees at certain exposures, hives also have superorganism defenses and, aided by beekeepers, can survive.
“More judicious use of neonics would help beekeepers combat sub-lethal effects, which shorten the life of bees and colonies. But an outright federal ban is an overreaction as it relates to honeybees. States should assess the impacts to honeybees in their states and take appropriate action,” Hiatt said.
On the other hand, native pollinators usually don’t have the advantages that honeybees have and a national ban may be appropriate for them, he said.
Mark Powers, president of the Northwest Horticultural Council in Yakima, said NHC has no position on the bill. He said some neonics are used in tree fruit production and others are not.
“In general, neonics are an important tool for growing pears and controlling pear psylla and are also sometimes used in apple and cherry orchards for controlling specific pests,” Powers said.
“Pollinators are critically important to the tree fruit industry. We cannot produce apples, pears and cherries without pollinators,” he said.
Growers follow EPA label requirements such as not applying neonics until after trees are done blooming, he said.