Control Mosquitos & Protect Bees – We Need to Do Both

Did you know that in 1906 more than 85% of Panama Canal workers were hospitalized with mosquito-borne yellow fever and malaria? That was an extreme public health crisis. But don’t we all know someone who has personally experienced the devastating impacts of Lyme disease or West Nile virus?

Slug on a soybean. Photo credit: Nick Sloff

Sometimes we need insecticides to control pests and prevent disease to protect our health. But sometimes these same insecticides can be hazardous to bees, which are essential for growing crops and ensuring a wholesome, healthy food supply.

How do we protect public health from the threat of mosquito-borne illnesses, and at the same time protect bees? How do we balance the need for pesticides to control pests that wreak havoc on our crops, and prevent unintended consequences to our health and environment?

These are some of the dilemmas where IPM, or Integrated Pest Management, can help. IPM focuses on long-term prevention of pests and their damage by managing the ecosystem. And EPA’s IPM grant projects are bringing us solutions faster and complement our existing pesticide restrictions.

Today we are announcing three grants for IPM projects to reduce pesticide risks, maximize public health, crop health and crop production, while saving money.

EPA Assistant Administrator for Chemicals Safety and Pollution Prevention meets with the

EPA Assistant Administrator for Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, Jim Jones, meets with the IPM grant recipients

  • The Louisiana State University project focuses on minimizing the impacts on bees from insecticides used in mosquito control by using IPM. Mosquito control is critical for public health and bees are critical for agricultural production and a healthy food supply.
  • The Pennsylvania State University project will seek to protect bees and crops by reducing reliance on neonicotinoid pesticide seed treatments and will test the benefits of growing crops without them. These seed coatings are used to prevent slugs that damage crops by feeding on their leaves. But seed treatments may harm bees, as well as animals that eat slugs that have fed on plants grown from treated seeds. 
  • The University of Vermont project’s goal is to reduce herbicide and fungicide applications by 50%, decrease downy mildew crop disease, and increase crop yields on 75 acres of hops grown in the Northeast using less pesticide-intensive IPM methods. 96% of hops growers report that weeds and disease are reducing their crop yields. Hops traditionally require several pesticide sprays but overuse can cause water quality and runoff issues and harm beneficial insects.

I hope that these IPM projects will continue to bring innovative, common-sense solutions to protect our health and the environment and keep the healthy abundance of food that we enjoy into the new year and for generations.

Jim Jones is the Assistant Administrator of the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. He is responsible for managing the office which implements the nation’s pesticide, toxic chemical, and pollution prevention laws. Jim’s career with EPA spans more than 26 years. He has an M.A. from the University of California at Santa Barbara and a B.A. from the University of Maryland, both in Economics.