Washington, D.C.— A truck full of dead bees will make its final stop at a rally outside the headquarters of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency this afternoon, culminating a coast-to-coast tour to raise awareness about recent massive declines in pollinators.
While the millions of dead bees will remain in the truck, advocates and beekeepers will deliver over 4 million signatures urging an immediate ban on bee-killing pesticides.
“In the five years since I started keeping bees, I’ve seen many hives killed by pesticides,” said James Cook, a Minnesota-based beekeeper who has been driving the truck across the country since last Monday. “If some fundamental things don’t change, it’s going to be really hard for beekeepers to adapt to the environment around us.”
Bees pollinate most of the world’s most common crops, including summer favorites like peaches and watermelon. But over 40 percent of U.S. honeybee hives die each year, costing the farming and beekeeping industry more than $2 billion annually.
One culprit in the bee die-off is the widely-used class of pesticides called neonicotinoids, or neonics. Last spring EPA began a process to assess four types of neonics and their impacts on pollinators. In January the Agency acknowledged that imidacloprid could indeed harm bees, but the remaining assessments are still outstanding.
“Given the facts we have at hand about the links between neonics and bee die-offs, officials should move boldly and swiftly to stop any and all uses of these dangerous chemicals,” said Anna Aurilio, the director of the Washington, D.C., office of Environment America.
To wrap up their Keep the Hives Alive Tour, farmers, beekeepers and food advocates will meet today with officials from EPA, members of Congress, and representatives from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, delivering letters from nearly 200 businesses and organizations urging action on bee-killing pesticides and support for sustainable agriculture.
"The science is clear and convincing. To be truly effective, we need a nationwide policy to protect our pollinators before the crisis gets completely out of control,” said Del. Anne Healey, sponsor of Maryland’s Pollinator Protection Act, the first bill passed in the United States to eliminate consumer use of neonics.
Over the past two weeks Keep the Hives Alive has made stops in California, South Dakota, Minnesota, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina. It comes to a close during National Pollinator Week, at a rally where environmental advocates, farmers, restaurant owners and others joined beekeepers to call for action.
“I have never seen any compelling reason to use systemic insecticides,” said Jim Goodman, farmer and owner of Northwood Organic Farm in Wonewoc, Wisconsin. “Crop rotation as part of a diverse mix of crops, pasture and native plants seems to work quite well. Of course it makes little profit for the corporations that manufacture agricultural chemicals -- and there is the rub.”
“Bees are the most important thing for sustainable food growth, which is one of the reasons I have always sourced 100 percent organic food, free of pesticides that may cause pollinators harm,” said Nora Pouillon, owner and founder of Restaurant Nora, America’s first certified organic restaurant.
“What’s happening today to pollinators is no different than what happened 50 years ago with the collapse of the osprey, bald eagle, and other bird and aquatic animal populations due to the use of DDT,” said Scott Nash, CEO of Mom’s Organic Market. “If we allow the chemical agribusiness industry to continue these short-sighted practices, food costs will increase as food supplies diminish.”
"We have so many losses it's worse than break-even. It is getting harder and harder to keep bees and make a living,” said Roger Williams, president of the Central Maryland Beekeepers Association. “And if we stop keeping bees, who's going to pollinate your fruits and vegetables? This can't go on."