Bees are dying. Would a consumer ban on a pesticide help?

Bees pollinate almost three-quarters of the 100 crop species that provide 90 percent of the world’s food supply, say advocates working on a campaign to protect bees from insecticides.

Last week, the grassroots group Environment North Carolina delivered a petition with 13,452 signatures to Gov. Roy Cooper’s office, calling for a consumer ban on the sale and use of neonicotinoids (neonics) pesticides. Advocates gathered in downtown Raleigh, not far from regional headquarters for Syngenta and other businesses like Bayer and Dow Chemical that manufacture neonics and say their products are safe when applied according to label directions.

Every winter for the past 12 years, about 30 percent of commercial honeybee hives in the United States have collapsed because of diseases, parasites, poor nutrition, pesticides and other issues, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Services has said.

While pesticides aren’t the only cause, they contribute to the problem, according to the department, which recommends gardeners use pesticides sparingly or not at all.

Drew Ball, state director of Environment North Carolina, believes banning sales to consumers in the state would be a step in the right direction toward bigger bans.

Maryland and Connecticut have banned the sale of neonics to consumers, said state Rep. Pricey Harrison. The European Union has banned neonics and Canada is phasing them out.

Harrison is one of the sponsors of House Bill 559, also known as the Pollinator Protection Act. The bill, whose primary sponsors also include Reps. Chuck McGrady, John Ager and Mitchell Setzer, stalled in committee this spring.

Concerns about agricultural pesticides are not new, said Hannah Burrack, professor of entomology at N.C. State University. People disagree because there are positive and negative effects, so it’s a trade-off, she said.

“The thing that gets glossed over in the discussions of banning neonics is that the pests themselves aren’t going to go away in these farming systems,” said Burrack, who is also an extension specialist. “Something needs to be done to manage them, and that something might become a more toxic pesticide if this one is removed. That needs to be a part of the conversation.”

A Google search can yield numerous alternatives to insecticides, like using fabric covers to keep pests off crops. The Natural Resource Conservation Service suggests people who do use insecticides should choose products with less harmful ingredients and spray them on dry evenings after dark when bees are not active.

Neonicotinoids are classified as a “general pesticide” by the EPA, which means no training or licensing is required to use them.

Consumers, who may not know as much as farmers about the chemicals they are using, often over-apply neonics, at a time when non-farming regions have become increasingly important habitats for bees, said Libba Rollins, Environment North Carolina’s campaign lead.

“Private citizens aren’t typically aware of the impact this has on pollinator population,” Ball explained. “A lot of people are buying these over the counter without recognizing the effect.”

Environment North Carolina is seeking a consumer ban because “bees are dying at record rates,” Ball said. “Beekeepers report losing an average of 30 percent of all honeybee colonies each winter, roughly twice the loss considered sustainable. A recent study found that more than half of all (wild) bees are in decline, too.”

It is not clear if neonics are causing the decline in wild bees, Burrack said. “There is limited science available and it’s harder to research wild bees because they can’t be raised in captivity,” she said.

However, fewer wild bees could affect crop production. North Carolina is fourth in pumpkin production, seventh in cantaloupe, apple and tomato production, eighth in squash and watermelon production and ninth in cabbage production, and all of these crops require pollinators, including wild bees, Rollins said.

Bayer, Dow, Monsanto and Syngenta are some of the biggest producers of neonics and say they should not be blocked or banned.

“Neonicotinoids are rigorously tested before going to market to ensure they can be used safely and effectively while allowing bees and other pollinators to thrive,” Syngenta said a statement to The News & Observer. “The weight of scientific evidence clearly shows that bees and other pollinators can coexist safely with neonicotinoid insecticides when product labels are followed.”

Bayer agreed, adding that the potential exposure to bees by consumer application is far below levels that would cause concern.

“Distinguishing toxicity from risk is a routine activity performed by most of us, even if we’re unaware we’re doing so,” Bayer said in its statement. “For example, caffeine is more toxic than many pesticides, yet we drink it in coffee without fear because the levels are so low.”

In 2014, Home Depot, the world’s largest home improvement company, announced that it had stopped treating 80 percent of flowering plants with neonics and would completely stop using neonics in flowering plants by 2018.

Lowe’s Home Improvement announced in 2015 that it would phase out neonics after the EPA announced it would stop approving new uses of the pesticide.

While groups disagree about bans, insecticides like neonics are part of a larger discussion about how our food is grown, Burrack said.

“I believe the best solution is to use the whole suite of pest-management tools we have available to us,” she said. “We monitor insect populations and select the least disruptive treatment available to us which in some cases is chemical control or not chemical-based controls.”

 

EPA approves use of bee-killing pesticide

Agency also suspends study of bee populations

RollCall.com |Elvina Nawaguna | July 15, 2019

Just days after another federal agency suspended its periodical study of honey bee populations, the EPA greenlighted the wider use of a pesticide that environmental activists warn could further decimate the pollinators.

A major conservation group says it will take the agency to court over the decision.

The EPA said Friday it was permitting the broader use of the pesticide sulfoxaflor, a move that follows a request by chemical manufacturer Dow AgroSciences LLC.

The EPA approval of sulfoxaflor follows a decision by the Agriculture Department last week to suspend its study of bee populations, a tool that beekeepers use to track the decline of colonies. The USDA cited limited “fiscal and program resources” as justification for its decision to stop collecting the data.

Dow Chemical Co., the former parent of Dow AgroSciences, gave President Donald Trump $1 million for his 2017 inauguration, according to data compiled by OpenSecrets.org, a project of the Center for Responsive Politics.

Gregg Schmidt, a spokesman for the company, now called Corteva Agriscience following its spinoff after the merger of Dow and DuPont, said it was “pleased” with EPA’s decision. “Growers should have access to tools that can be used safely according to the product label,” he said in an emailed response.

Researchers have observed the sudden and quick disappearance of honey bee colonies in the U.S. and other parts of the world, with implications for ecosystems, crop yields and nutrition.

Blame for the bees’ losses have been assigned to intensive farming practices; planting of a single crop on the same land year after year, or mono-cropping; excessive use of agricultural chemicals and higher temperatures due to climate change, according to the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization.

“Bees are under great threat from the combined effects of climate change, intensive agriculture, pesticides use, biodiversity loss and pollution,” said FAO’s Director-General José Graziano da Silva in a video for World Bee Day in May. “The absence of bees and other pollinators would wipe out coffee, apples, almonds, tomatoes and cocoa to name just a few of the crops that rely on pollination.”

Between April 2018 and the same month this year, beekeepers in the U.S. lost about 40.7 percent of their colonies, according to a report by of the Bee Informed Partnership, a program partly run by the University of Maryland and Auburn University.

“Just looking at the overall picture . . .  it’s disconcerting that we’re still seeing elevated losses after over a decade of survey and quite intense work to try to understand and reduce colony loss,” Geoffrey Williams, assistant professor of entomology at Auburn University and co-author, said in comments accompanying the June 19 report. “We don’t seem to be making particularly great progress to reduce overall losses.”

A study published in the journal Nature found exposure to sulfoxaflor reduced bees’ ability to reproduce.

“The Trump EPA’s reckless approval of this bee-killing pesticide across 200 million U.S. acres of crops like strawberries and watermelon without any public process is a terrible blow to imperiled pollinators,” Lori Ann Burd, the director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s environmental health program, said following EPA’s announcement. “With no opportunity for independent oversight or review, this autocratic administration’s appalling decision to bow to industry and grant broad approval for this highly toxic insecticide leaves us with no choice but to take legal action.”

The Obama administration in 2015 moved to ban the use of the pesticide after a lawsuit brought by beekeepers. Another court decision later prompted the Obama EPA to allow the use of the pesticide although it restricted it to only crops that are not attractive to pollinators.

Dow AgroSciences, the manufacturer of the pesticide, in 2018 filed an application to the EPA for wider use of sulfoxaflor, according to a filing in the Federal Register.

EPA’s decision on Friday not only adds new uses for the pesticides but also removes previous restrictions.

Call Your Doctor If Your Bug Bite Looks Like *This*

womens_health.jpg by Korin Miller, May 20, 2019

bite-to-the-neck-royalty-free-image-584572080-1558039675.jpg_crop=1.00xBug bites are an unfortunate little annoyance in life, and the odds are prettttttyyyy high that you’ve been bitten by some creepy-crawly (er, or a variety of creepy-crawlies) in your lifetime. And while you probably just want to scratch the darn spot and move on, it’s wise to try and figure out what actually bit you.

Why? Some bug bites are relatively harmless, but others have the potential to bring on more serious health issues if you don’t treat them appropriately, and fast. Here are several fairly common insect bites you may experience, and how to know whether or not a bite warrants a trip to your doctor’s office.

Bedbug bites

While the thought of bedbug bites may skeeve you out, they’re more annoying to deal with than an actual threat to your health, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Bedbug bites are primarily just super itchy and can keep you up at night. The bigger issue with these pesky bugs is that they can spread really fast and lead to an infestation, and it can be an inconvenient and expensive process to get rid of one. (Also, the idea of little bugs feeding on your blood while you sleep isn’t exactly a comforting thought.)

People can have a range of reactions to bedbug bites, says Nancy Troyano, PhD, a board-certified entomologist with Ehrlich Pest Control. Some people have no reaction at all when bitten, but most people will notice an itchy, red, welt-like mark that looks similar to a mosquito bite, Troyano says. “Bites may appear in a linear fashion if there are multiple bugs feeding, and bites can occur anywhere, but they are often found in areas where skin is readily exposed,” she notes.

Contrary to popular belief, attracting bedbugs has nothing to do with bad hygiene or a dirty apartment. Bedbugs get around by hitchhiking onto your things, so prevention can be tough, says Angela Tucker, PhD, manager of technical services for Terminix. “Knowing this, the best prevention for bedbugs is being watchful during your travels and regular home cleaning,” she says.

You can also keep an eye out for the critters, which are about the size, shape, and color of an apple seed when fully grown. Another sign that bedbugs may be around your space is their byproduct, meaning you might see reddish-brown blood spots on sheets or mattresses, Tucker says.

If you do happen to get bedbug bites, spot-treat them with hydrocortisone cream to try to soothe itch, says David Cutler, MD, a family medicine physician at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California. Then, get rid of the infestation-with the help of a professional. “It’s important to see where the bedbugs came from,” Dr. Cutler says. “Then, call in a professional exterminator so you don’t get any more bedbug bites.”

Bee and wasp stings

You’ll usually know it when you get stung by a bee or wasp, because it hurts like hell. “At first, you may not even see anything on the skin,” Troyano says. “However, within a few minutes of being stung, there may be localized swelling and redness around the sting site.” The area might also feel warm, and you might see a small white mark near the center of the swelling (that’s where the stinger went into your skin), she describes.

If you know you have an allergy to bee or wasp stings, follow instructions from your doctor and seek medical care immediately. But if you’re not allergic, you’ll still want to take action. Bees lose their stinger after stinging, Troyano says, and you should try to remove it if it’s still stuck in you. Then, apply ice to reduce swelling, says David Gatz, MD, an emergency medicine physician at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore. You also may want to take an antihistamine like Benadryl, he says.

The only real way to totally avoid getting stung is to not interact with bees and wasps…obviously. (But that’s not a feasible lifestyle if you ever want to enjoy the outdoors!) So when you’re outside, don’t swat at bees and wasps-just let them be. “In general, if you leave bees and wasps alone, they will leave you alone,” says Tucker.

If you want to be especially cautious, she also recommends skipping flowery perfumes or fragrances and covering any food and drink around you.

Scabies

Scabies is a parasite infestation caused by microscopic mites, according to the CDC. When you have scabies, the female burrows into your epidermis to lay her eggs.

Scabies usually shows up as a rash with small, raised pustules or blisters, and is “intensely itchy,” Troyano says. If you’ve never had scabies before, you might not see the rash for several weeks after you’ve been exposed. But, if you’ve had scabies before, you might see a rash within one to four days of being exposed, she says.

View image on Twitter

Medscape

@Medscape

Examining a patient’s hands, feet and lower legs will catch more than 90% of #scabies cases. http://ms.spr.ly/6012TBBse 

24

Scabies is transmitted through “prolonged direct skin contact” and is “highly contagious,” Tucker says. You need to see a doctor to get properly diagnosed and treated, but it’s generally treated with permethrin anti-parasitic cream, Dr. Gatz says.

Mosquito bites

Okay, yes, mosquito bites are usually NBD. They’re itchy and annoying, but nothing major to worry about. You probably already know what a mosquito bite looks like, but (just in case), they’re usually red, create a bump on your skin, and can itch, per Troyano. For some people, a bug bite may appear filled with fluid, with a small water blister in the center.

Photo credit: ChrisAt - Getty Images
Photo credit: ChrisAt – Getty Images
More

Mosquitos can carry diseases like Zika virus and West Nile virus, which can cause fever-like symptoms, rash, joint pain, and red eyes, the CDC says. So if you’ve been bitten by a mosquito and start to feel off afterward and have symptoms like these, call your doctor ASAP.

In order to let mosquito bites heal, do your best not to scratch; that raises the risk that the bite will get infected, Dr. Cutler says. Hydrocortisone cream should help alleviate some of the itch, he says.

While you can only do so much to prevent mosquito bites, Tucker recommends removing standing water around your home or yard (mosquitoes can lay their eggs in these areas). And, if you’re planning to spend a lot of time outside, using a good mosquito repellent is key, she says.

Spider bites

Spider bites are actually pretty rare, Troyano says, but they happen. They can look like typical bug bites, so it can be hard to tell right away if you were bitten by a spider unless you see it scuttling away.

If you do notice a bite and spot the little guy, Dr. Cutler recommends washing the area with soap and water and leaving it alone. “Toxins from [certain spiders] can destroy the skin,” he says-so it never hurts to wash the spot with soap and water to cleanse the skin (even if you’re not 100 percent sure it’s a spider bite).

But if the wound area seems to be growing, is unusually red, is hot to the touch, is ulcerated, or you have a fever and/or joint pain, call your doctor ASAP, Troyano says.

Cleaning out cobwebs inside and outside of your house can lessen your chances of spider run-ins. Also, wear long sleeves, pants, gloves, and a hat to protect your skin when you’re working outside or in areas where things are stored and not used often, and try to keep your grass and bushes maintained, Tucker says.

Tick bites

It’s not always obvious when a tick bites you, because it won’t *always* leave a mark (more on that in a minute). But sometimes the tick will still be attached when you discover a bite, so the first thing you’ll want to do is remove it. Troyano recommends taking the following steps to do this:

  • Use tweezers and grab the tick close to the skin.
  • Steadily pull upward, but avoid twisting the insect.
  • Don’t crush the tick once removed.
  • Submerge the tick in rubbing alcohol and save it. Put it in a clear, sealable plastic bag in case you need to see a doctor or veterinarian. Or, take a clear photo, then flush it.

Once the tick is removed, wash the area with soap and water, Dr. Gatz says.

If you notice a bullseye-shaped rash appear on your body, a pink rash on your wrists, arms, and ankles, or an ulcerated area around a bite, call your doctor, Troyano says. These symptoms may be signs that a tick did bite you, and you’ve been infected with a tick-borne illness like Lyme disease. If you experience a fever, chills, aches, and muscle fatigue, those are also cues you need to make a visit to your doctor.

But remember, not every tick carries a tick-borne illness, so even if one bit you at some point, that doesn’t guarantee you contracted something more serious.

1332247916_DeerTickBite...

How can you protect yourself from tick bites? Tucker recommends showering quickly when you come in from being outside (you might be able to wash off ticks before they have a chance to bite you). It’s also a smart idea to wear long pants and sleeves when you go into tick-infested areas, like the woods, and to wear bug repellent that contains DEET. Also ask a family member or friend to help you do a body scan for ticks after being out in the woods.