No More Bee-Killing Pesticides

PennPIRG summer newsletter

Bees pollinate everything from strawberries to broccoli to the alfalfa used to feed dairy cows, and without them, our food supply and environment would be at risk.

Even so, Americans spray about 46 million pounds of neonicotinoid pesticides—one of the worst types of bee-killing pesticides in the world, yet also the most widely used—on our gardens and public spaces every year.

Given the consequences, PennPIRG is calling on Pennsylvania to ban the sale of bee-killing pesticides. There is already momentum building: Maryland and Connecticut have both taken important action to limit the use of neonics, and the European Union just voted to completely ban them.

We can, and must, do better. Join us in calling on Pennsylvania to take action to protect bees and our food.

Learn more about our Ban Bee-Killing Pesticides campaign and take action here, including link to a petition to PA Governor Wolf, with the description:

Tell Governor Wolf: Ban Bee-Killing Pesticides

Millions of bees are dying every year, and scientists point to a widely used class of pesticides as one of the main culprits behind these die-offs. We rely on bees to pollinate everything from strawberries to broccoli to the alfalfa used to feed dairy cows.

For the past several years, PIRG and other groups have asked the EPA to ban these pesticides nationwide, and they have failed to do so. Now, to protect bees and our food supply, we’re calling on states to act. Call on Governor Wolf to ban the sale of bee-killing pesticides.

Advertisements

Entomologist John Jackson: “Bugs and Weeds Away–the Natural Way”

On May 29, John Jackson (BA in biology, MA in zoology, PhD in entomology) spoke on having a weed-free sidewalk and neutralizing mosquito breeding spots without using harmful chemicals. His talk at Iron Works Church in West Chester was sponsored by Don’t Spray Me! / Sierra Club and the South West Association of Neighbors (SWAN).

Here are some highlights of his talk and the subsequent discussion (with some resorting of topics):

1) Mosquitoes

Mosquitoes are the best-known insects in the world, because of their role in spreading diseases, especially malaria, yellow fever, and dengue. But the ways chemical tools have been overused against them are not in the interest of either people or wildlife. Chemicals may be needed to prevent massive epidemics, especially in the tropics, but when overused become ineffective because insects develop resistance.

There are lots of biting flies beyond mosquitoes. Here, the predominantly evening-biting Culex mosquitoes can carry West Nile Virus but day-biting Aedes (including Asian Tiger, which has been in the US only since 1985) almost never do. People should not view all insects (of which most don’t bite) as enemies.

Culex, the “house mosquito,” overwinters as adults in sheds, porches, tree hollows, and other sheltered areas. The adult mosquitoes we see in May have overwintered; they may have not yet had time to reproduce. Culex mosquitoes love urban environments, where they lay eggs in water where larvae feed on bacteria and organic matter.

West Nile Virus, which came to the US in 1999, depends on birds as a reservoir (unlike Zika, whose reservoir is people, making it easier to contain, as recently in Miami). Some birds, which in the past were often dying of WNV, appear now to be developing immunity. Fortunately, WNV is not transmitted through mosquito eggs, only from a bitten bird to another bitten bird or human. Known human WNV cases have been rare in PA.

Effective non-chemical defenses include tight-fitting screens, fans on ceilings or porches, repellents (notably lemon eucalyptus oil, picaridin, or citronella oil), various odoriferous granules spread in gardens or lawns.

Fogging with pesticides is a bad idea, because it kills many species, including mosquito predators like spiders; drift cannot be controlled; and it kills only adult mosquitoes, whereas many more larvae are just waiting to hatch every day and take over the air space.

The absolutely most important thing is to eliminate standing water, including where we might not think of it: in plastic bottles, the folds of tarps, in the fixed bottoms under some potted plants, even vases in cemeteries.

From mosquito egg to adult probably takes 10-15 days when weather is hot and damp, but 25-30 days with temperatures in the 70’s.

The bacteria-based larvcide Bti is very effective at killing mosquito larvae. The biscuits and granules have slower release than liquid and powder form. The hormonal Methoprene is also not toxic and prevents the metamorphosis to adult.

One of the worst sampling stations is in SE West Chester; it is not clear if that is related to Goose Creek. Trash in suburban streams creates mosquito habitat. And water can stand in old storm sewer lines like the Borough’s.

2) Weeds

Some undesired plants, like dandelions and poison ivy, are best dug up. Weeds are tough, but weakening them by cutting off the leaves a few times makes them more vulnerable to other treatments.

Old-school boiling water works really well; be careful, wear boots and goggles! Ditto butane flame torches. Or: a weak acid breaks down cell walls; vinegar works, but changes the soil chemistry.

He prefers to use 1 cup of borax (another kind of salt) in 1 gallon of warm water to kill weeds. The borax concentration can be doubled if needed. It also, for better or worse, it also kills ants, moss, lichen, and liverwort. Two applications a summer usually suffice, preferably in hot dry weather, since rain washes the borax away.

Regular table salt also kills plants; witness the die-off this past winter along roads and alleys in the Borough, which uses salt and brine to melt snow and ice. Municipalities tend to use twice as much salt as 20 years ago, even though less harmful substances are available. As a result, streams have increased chloride levels; he measured half the salt content of seawater in one stream.


excess salt, edge of alley, West Chester, 12/20/17

Connecticut State Legislature Bans Residential Mosquito Misters

Beyond Pesticides, May 23, 2018

Earlier this month, the Connecticut state legislature voted to ban the use of residential pesticide misting systems. (These are devices that are typically placed outdoors and spray insecticides –mostly in an attempt to control mosquitoes.) This is the latest move from a state legislature that has also recently banned the use of bee-toxic neonicotinoids and stopped the use of hazardous lawn care pesticides on public playgrounds. The vote was unanimous in the state Senate, and won by a count of 132-17 in the state House. The bill is set to become law on May 24, unless Governor Malloy vetoes the legislation, which is not expected.

Pesticide misters are machines primarily used to spray mosquito adulticides. Many health advocates have expressed concern that these products, able to spray toxic pesticides on a timer at regular intervals, pose a significant risk to pets and children who can be directly in the path of a mister’s spray. The chemicals employed in these machines are often synthetic pyrethroids, which have been linked to a range of human health effects, from early puberty in boys, to behavioral disorders, learning problems, ADHD, and certain cancers. Neighbors who do not want to be exposed to these chemicals are also put at risk from pesticide drift….

keep reading and see links at Beyond Pesticides

European Union bans bee-killing neonicotinoid pesticides

Friends of the Earth, April 27, 2018

Friends of the Earth urges EPA and food retailers to follow

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The European Union (EU) governments today voted to ban the use of bee-killing neonicotinoid pesticides on outdoor crops.

The vote by the EU comes after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) delayed regulatory action on most uses of neonicotinoids until 2018, despite receiving more than six million public comments urging the pesticide be banned in the U.S.

In response to the vote, Tiffany Finck-Haynes, senior food futures campaigner for Friends of the Earth issued the following statement:

“The EU’s groundbreaking ban on bee-killing neonicotinoid pesticides is a huge win for pollinators, people and the planet. Given the overwhelming body of scientific evidence and overwhelming public concern, EPA as well as leading U.S. food retailers like Kroger should take immediate action and eliminate the use of these toxic pesticides.”

See wehat food retailers are or are not doing in the download Swarming the Aisles II: Rating top retailers on pesticide reduction and organic food to protect pollinators at Friends of the Earth

House Farm Bill: A disaster favoring pesticide manufacturers

Petition from Sierra Club

Tell your representative to oppose this anti-environment House Farm Bill.

The House 2018 Farm Bill is an absolute disaster — and we need to do everything we can to stop it. It is replete with partisan, anti-environmental provisions, representing Big Ag and pesticide companies over our food supply, wildlife, ecosystem, residents, and small farmers. Congress should look after the public interest before the profits of the world’s largest chemical companies. Take action here to urge your representative to vote down this dangerous bill now!

The House version of the Farm Bill:

Cuts programs to develop farmer’s markets
Seeks to exempt pesticide manufacturers from liability for harming endangered wildlife
Weakens critical protections to keep wildlife safe from toxic pesticides
Increases costs for organic farmers and undermines ecological, sustainable farming
Proposes a new office to advocate for the use of genetically engineered organisms
Logs its way through our forests and guts water conservation programs
Makes it easier for corporate polluters to contaminate drinking water supplies
Cuts safety net programs for low-income people, exacerbating hunger and food insecurity
Attacks food sovereignty and home rule, striking state rights to set their own food and animal standards, such as pesticide bans or cage-free egg requirements
Cuts programs proven to promote soil heath and fight climate change
Continues support for big corporate Caged Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs)

This Farm Bill would cause so much damage, it must be altogether stopped. The public deserves safe and healthy food, water, wildlife, and forests — and the House needs to put the greater good before Big Ag’s toxic agenda. We deserve fair food and farm policies that respect our rights, our health and the need for a healthy environment to sustain our current and future generations.

Petition your representative at Sierra Club

EU agrees total ban on bee-harming pesticides

by Damian Carrington, The Guardian, 4/27/18

The world’s most widely used insecticides will be banned from all fields within six months, to protect both wild and honeybees that are vital to crop pollination

The European Union will ban the world’s most widely used insecticides from all fields due to the serious danger they pose to bees.

The ban on neonicotinoids, approved by member nations on Friday, is expected to come into force by the end of 2018 and will mean they can only be used in closed greenhouses.

Bees and other insects are vital for global food production as they pollinate three-quarters of all crops. The plummeting numbers of pollinators in recent years has been blamed, in part, on the widespread use of pesticides. The EU banned the use of neonicotinoids on flowering crops that attract bees, such as oil seed rape, in 2013.

But in February, a major report from the European Union’s scientific risk assessors (Efsa) concluded that the high risk to both honeybees and wild bees resulted from any outdoor use, because the pesticides contaminate soil and water. This leads to the pesticides appearing in wildflowers or succeeding crops. A recent study of honey samples revealed global contamination by neonicotinoids….

read more at The Guardian

Save the pollinators!

email from Friends of the Earth, 3/9/18. [N.b. Bayer also manufactures permanone, one of today’s mosquito sprays of choice. And, believe it or not, “In 1898, the Bayer pharmaceutical company began an aggressive marketing campaign to sell its commercial preparation of Heroin” (Narcanon; and search other sources). Who would trust such a company with our health and environment?]

Bayer the Bee-Slayer and Monsanto the Butterfly Killer are trying to merge into one giant pesticide corporation.

This would be a disaster for pollinators, people and the environment. Farmers overwhelmingly think this mega-merger is a bad idea — a new poll found 93 percent of farmers surveyed oppose it. Over 1 million Americans have called on the Justice Department to stop it. And there are investigations in both the EU and the U.S.

We need to make sure the Department of Justice doesn’t let this merger move forward. But we need your help to urge it to act.

Tell the Department of Justice to stop the Bayer-Monsanto merger!

If this merger goes through, the new company would be the world’s largest vegetable seed company. It would control seeds for many of the crops we eat regularly — including broccoli, carrots and onions.

It would also be the largest manufacturer and seller of herbicides. It would double down on making toxic chemicals like glyphosate (a.k.a. Roundup®) — which is a key culprit in monarch butterfly declines and is a probable human carcinogen.

What’s more, this merger threatens the development of a sustainable and just food system. It will hurt independent family farmers and rural economies and will encourage farmers to ramp up the chemically intensive agricultural system that Bayer and Monsanto promote.

In short, we’d be giving a single corporation unprecedented control of our food supply. We can’t let the future of our food system be handed over to Bayer and Monsanto.

The Department of Justice has the power to stop the proposed merger — but it won’t act unless you speak up.

sign the petition here

Tell your members of Congress to ban chlorpyrifos!

Friends of the Earth, 3/6/18, text of petition:

Dear legislator,

I am writing to urge you to cosponsor S.6124 / H.R. 3380, which would ban chlorpyrifos, a highly toxic nerve agent pesticide known to cause brain damage in children.

Chlorpyrifos is so dangerous that, after years of study,, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), based on the weight of the scientific evidence, was set to ban all uses of this pesticide in 2015. However, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt reversed the proposed ban.

Donald Trump’s administration has failed on this issue. The agency reversed its proposed ban on chlopryrifos after Dow delivered $1 million to Donald Trump’s inaugural committee. In addition, Trump picked Dow Chemical CEO Andrew Liveris to head the American Manufacturing Council. I’m also alarmed that the White House just announced that Trump plans to nominate Dow’s lawyer to lead EPA’s office of solid waste. That means a former Dow employee will be in charge of overseeing the toxic waste sites of his former employer.

The actions of the Trump administration signal that they are more concerned about protecting the interests of the pesticide industry than the American public. As your constituent I urge you to take leadership on this issue.

The science is clear: there are no safe uses of chlorpyrifos. Prenatal exposures to this chemical are associated with reduced IQ, loss of working memory, attention disorders and delayed motor development. Whenever chlorpyrifos is sprayed, it can cause immediate and long-term health harms to kids, farmers, farmworkers and others who are exposed.

In its latest risk assessment of chlorpyrifos, your agency’s scientists determined that:

• All food exposures exceed safe levels, with children ages 1-2 exposed to levels of chlorpyrifos that are 140 times what the EPA deems safe.
• There is no safe level of chlorpyrifos in drinking water.
• Chlorpyrifos is found at unsafe levels in the air at schools and homes in communities in agricultural areas.
• All workers who mix and apply chlorpyrifos are exposed to unsafe levels of the pesticide, even with maximum personal protective equipment and engineering controls.

There are effective alternatives for pest management that won’t poison our children.

We must protect ourselves and our children from this dangerous chemical.

Please cosponsor S.6124 / H.R. 3380 to demonstrate that you prioritize the interests of the American public over Dow’s corporate profits.

Pesticide Hypersensitivity Registry and Application

Public and commercial spray operators are required to give advance notice of spraying to registered individuals. In addition, the Chester County Health Department grants registered hypersensitive individuals an exclusion zone around their residence to spare them from chemical exposure.

If you feel you qualify, to register you can download the form here: Pesticide Hypersensitivity Application Form(2). Then print and fill it out, get a physician’s signed approval, and submit it.

Background info at Penn State Extension includes:

“The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA) maintains a registry of individuals hypersensitive to pesticides. It is a listing of locations for people who have been verified by a physician to be excessively or abnormally sensitive to pesticides. These hypersensitive individuals may request to have listings of their home, place of employment, school (if a student), and vacation home placed in the Registry. A person will not be considered included in the Registry unless their name appears in the current published Registry.”

Note that you can register not just your home address but up to 4 locations.