Member-supported news for Southern California
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Support for KPCC comes from:

Beekeepers file lawsuit against EPA over pesticides

The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency Thursday released a new scientific report on the health of honeybees. Honeybees pollinate one third of everything humans eat, from lettuce to asparagus, zucchini, and other fruits and vegetables.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
Honeybees pollinate one third of everything humans eat, from lettuce to asparagus, zucchini, and other fruits and vegetables.

Beekeepers are upset about the declining honeybee population and some of them are blaming two pesticides approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Four beekeepers and five consumer and environmental groups, filed a lawsuit Thursday against EPA officials in U.S. District Court in San Francisco. The groups say the EPA ignored their warnings that the two pesticides, clothianidin and thiamethoxam led to the deaths of bees.

“America’s beekeepers cannot survive for long with the toxic environment EPA has supported,” said Steve Ellis, who is the owner of Old Mill Honey Co., which operates in California and Minnesota. “Bee-toxic pesticides in dozens of widely used products, on top of many other stresses our industry faces, are killing our bees and threatening our livelihoods,” he said in a statement.

Ellis joined three other beekeepers that have participated in the lawsuit from New York, Colorado and Florida. The groups involved in the suit are Beyond Pesticides, Center for Food Safety, Pesticide Action Network North America, Sierra Cluband the Center for Environmental Health

The Center for Food Safety, a Washington DC-based nonprofit, said the two pesticides became popular in the mid-2000s, around the same time large numbers of bee colonies collapsed. This year, some beekeepers were concerned about whether the bee deaths would impact this year’s almond crop, which is California’s top agricultural export.

The groups want the EPA to stop the use of the two pesticides and work on creating better labels on how to use those products. They also said the EPA should examine the impact the two pesticides have on endangered or threatened species.

The two pesticides are absorbed by the plants and transported through the plant’s tissue, the Center for Food Safety said. The group of beekeepers and organizations said in their lawsuit that bees have died after being exposed to pesticide-contaminated dust during corn planting season.

The EPA did not return KPCC's request for comment.

Honeybees pollinate about one-third of what humans eat, from almonds to apples.