By Alexandra Dapolito Dunn
Assistant Administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention
Each year, we celebrate National Pollinator Week in an effort to spread awareness and educate each other about the importance of pollinators like bees, butterflies, birds, and bats. About one-third of the food we eat, like almonds, berries, and many other fruits and vegetables, depend on pollinators. And I’m pleased to say that at EPA we’re working to protect them from harmful pesticide exposure.
EPA’s regulations for pesticides ensure that public health and the environment are protected. And the public can do its part by reading and closely following the label directions to ensure that they are being used safely and appropriately. At EPA, our goal is for growers to have products that protect their flowers and crops from pests while ensuring pollinators and their habitat, which are essential for gardens and farms to thrive, aren’t exposed to harmful levels of pesticides.
EPA has been working with experts around the globe since 2006 to develop a cutting-edge pollinator risk assessment process. Through our regular reviews of pesticides, we’ve also updated data requirements to better assess potential risks to pollinators.
In 2013, EPA changed many pesticide labels, prohibiting application when plants are in bloom. Since pollinators spend most of their days foraging for food, they’re usually not around when plants aren’t in bloom, which makes it a better time to apply pesticides.
Building on these efforts, EPA brought together beekeepers, growers and state pesticide regulators to help inform our 2017 Policy to Mitigate the Acute Risk to Bees from Pesticide Products, and develop pollinator protection plans. The policy encourages states to develop their own pollinator protection plans and is a terrific example of our close working relationship. It also demonstrates how communication at the local level between beekeepers and farmers who apply pesticides can be a key to protecting bees. When beekeepers learn that farmers are planning to apply pesticides, they can take steps to protect their hives.
In addition, EPA recently updated our “Residual Time to 25% Bee Mortality” (RT25) Data table.
RT25 data help farmers and beekeepers know about how long a specific pesticide may remain toxic to bees and other insect pollinators following foliar application to crops.
The Washington Post has also recently reported on some of our efforts, saying that “the Trump administration’s action [to protect pollinators] was welcome news to some environmentalists,” which demonstrates how united Americans are on this important issue.
These are just a few steps that EPA has taken to protect pollinators, and we remain committed to protecting pollinators this week and every week!
Wondering what you can do to protect pollinators? Growing different kinds of flowering plants to provide bees with pollen and nectar is one way that you can help. Another step you can take is reducing pesticide use. If you do need to use a pesticide, always read the label directions; they explain how to safely use it and ultimately protect our pollinators and our environment.
Learn more about pollinator protection at https://www.epa.gov/pollinator-protection.
About the author: Alexandra Dapolito Dunn is the Assistant Administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. Prior to that she served as the Regional Administrator for EPA Region 1, and her responsibilities included overseeing the states of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont and ten tribal nations. Read more.