The NPDF is a new legal defense organization that provides support to beekeepers and pollinators by ensuring enforcement of pesticide laws and regulations, providing legal support to beekeepers, and providing guidance and tools to defend pollinators.
If you would like to support the NPDF, please visit our Support Page.
Native pollinators, managed pollinators and commercial beekeepers are in crisis—their very survival is in question. The rate of honey bee colony losses has increased sharply over the last 5–10 years due to a combination of factors that includes pesticides (insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides), pathogens, the Varroa mite, and loss of forage. There is no longer an unutilized reservoir of managed pollinators to meet growing pollination needs. Native pollinators are also declining, although an accurate accounting of their populations is lacking.
Honey production is down and can no longer support the managed pollinator industry. Farmers growing crops that need honey bees for pollination services are having to pay more for scarce bee resources, and sometimes they just can’t find enough bees to do the work. If the declines continue, our ability to grow fruits, nuts and vegetables will be compromised. The NPDF is working to turn this dire situation around by targeting a significant problem many beekeepers face today—protecting pollinators from pesticides.
The Role of Pesticides in Pollinator Decline
Pesticides contribute to the decline of pollinators in several ways. Acute poisoning incidents from drift or application of an insecticide to a blooming crop kills many bees suddenly. Similarly, mosquito fogging operations can poison pollinators from drift or direct applications to apiaries or forage areas. Persistent pesticides with extended residual times applied to blooming crops continue to poison pollinators for several weeks after application.
Chronic effects on honey bees, including impaired reproduction, impaired immune function, and reduced queen survival, have been linked to exposure to relatively low levels of certain insecticides and fungicides. Some of these pesticides are used on crops where honey bees have been placed for the purpose of pollination, where exposure is guaranteed. Pollinators are also exposed through gathering nectar or pollen from non-commercially pollinated crops like corn, cotton and soybeans, where pesticides toxic to pollinators are routinely applied as seed treatments, granular applications, or as foliar sprays during the growing season.
Insecticides and fungicides aren’t the only problem. Herbicides used in vegetation management or roadside programs and in the growing of herbicide-tolerant crops have substantially reduced the wild forage pollinators depend on to carry them through the lean times, leaving more hives teetering on the edge of survival from lack of food when winter arrives.
In 2012, several members of the American Honey Producers Association (AHPA) decided that it was time to challenge a system that has been placing the burden of pesticide externalities on the backs of beekeepers and native pollinators. The National Pollinator Defense Fund was formed in the interest of defending pollinators from the adverse impacts of pesticides.
Acute poisonings are the most obvious and preventable effect of pesticides; these incidents will initially be the primary focus of the NPDF. Our work is guided by the belief that pesticides should be regulated by US EPA in a way that prevents harm to managed and native pollinators, by ensuring that pesticide labels effectively prevent poisonings, pesticide applicators are well-informed and trained in pest control methods that prevent pollinator poisoning incidents, and State Lead Agencies take full responsibility for their enforcement duties. When pollinator poisoning incidents do occur, we believe that the State Lead Agencies charged with enforcing the law should act expeditiously to fully investigate each incident, document the incident in a traceable manner, file a comprehensive report of the incident with US EPA, and take corrective action to avert future poisoning incidents.
We look forward to working with other beekeepers, wildlife protectors, and all of you eaters out there to make sure these things come to pass. Please join us by donating, reporting any poisoning incidents and tracking what happens with the investigation, and/or working with us directly if you happen to be on the receiving end of damage to your operation from pesticides.