Honeybee, © Dolores Rose

Defenders Goes to Court for Bees

Defenders recently went to court to protect honey bees and native pollinators from the harmful effects of a widely-used class of insecticides called “neonicotinoids” (nēō-nǐkětǐnōǐds) that many scientists believe are partly responsible for the stunning collapse in these species’ populations.

Bees and other pollinators play an essential role in the environment and are an indispensable part of our agricultural system. As we told the court: Many foods that we eat depend on a crop pollinated by honey bees. Ninety percent of all flowering plants require pollinators to reproduce. But in recent years, bees and other pollinators have been disappearing, causing widespread concern that these important species could be wiped out altogether.

Bumble bee, © Foster Lea

A bumble bee pollinates a purple cone flower in Indiana.

Not long ago, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) registered a new insecticide called sulfoxaflor (sǔl-fǒks-a-flor) under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). The case we’re involved in, Pollinator Stewardship Council v. EPA (9th Circuit), challenges that decision, which makes the insecticide permissible for widespread use. The EPA approved sulfoxaflor for use even though the agency’s own scientists considered the product to be “very highly toxic” to honey bees. The Pollinator Stewardship Council (a group of beekeepers), with the assistance of Earthjustice, are asking the U.S. Court of Appeals of the Ninth Circuit to set aside the EPA’s decision to register sulfoxaflor so that this substance does not get out into the environment and impact honeybees.

Joining with attorneys from the Center for Food Safety and other groups, we filed an amicus or “friend of the court” brief in the case to highlight both the importance of pollinators and the critical need to adequately study the harmful effects of pesticides before approving them for use. Since neonicotinoids first became widely used in the mid-2000s, roughly one-third of America’s honey bee colonies have collapsed each year. Allowing another of these insecticides, like sulfoxaflor, to be used on millions of acres of farms and orchards will only make the situation worse.

The amicus brief brings environmental, food, and health groups together in support of overturning the registration. Defenders has recognized bees as a key species, and substantial evidence suggests that neonicotinides and next-generation pesticides like sulfoxaflor are playing a major role in the decline of these critical species. We will keep you posted as the case unfolds.

Jason Rylander, Senior Staff Attorney 

Categories: bees, Wildlife

65 Responses to “Defenders Goes to Court for Bees”

  1. Mary I. Erickson

    Save the bees before it is too late. Get rid of that insecticide that is killing them.

  2. C Wray

    There’s not much more I can add to the above comments about the deadly seriousness of the neonicotinoid threat to honeybees and therefore our food supply, except this: All who are concerned should buy stock in Monsanto, Bayer, and other companies that make pesticides, herbicides, and GMO seeds, not as an investment or to make money, but to own part of the company and have a say in what it does, how it is run, and who is in charge. Fighting for change from the inside & during stockholder meetings may be one way to accomplish it.

  3. shirley hopkins

    What does it take to make people wake up wait until they have killed all the bees and we have no food or flowers or anything that the bees use. My daughter has beehives and they are he most wonderful little creatures on earth they work all the time and are just so busy my daughter just loves them pity there aren’t more people around like her.

  4. gloria taber

    Thank you for standing up to protect these precious little creatures. They are vitally important to our environment. They need to be protected!

  5. Bob

    Neonicotinoids have been banned in many European nations, proving that intelligent governments do respond to scientific evidence and take appropriate actions to protect their citizens and the environment. Yet, insanity continues in the USA, and we are continually shocked by the scarcity of logic used in major decisions that affect us all so profoundly. Sadly, the explanation may be centered around greed and the pervasive financial interests of the major corporations who purchase the influence of legislators and others in our government. If we don’t take whatever steps are necessary to aggressively reverse this course, and soon, it will spell disaster.

  6. Janet Stahlheber

    All those comments above say it well. Also consider: how many butterflies do you see now compared to 10 or 20 years ago; how many bumblebees and other bees; how many other beneficial insects are not as apparent in our environment?
    This is an exercise in slow mass murder and suicide for the sake of profit for a few who have no regard even for their own children and grandchildren.

  7. Marc Chabot

    Why risk nearly the entire food chain including of course our own survival by approving yet another toxic poison to misuse and contaminate our environment?
    Got a sane, logical, sustainable and supportable answer for me EPA & FIFRA?
    I thought not. I won’t hear a thing from you. Hopefully you will along with a tidal wave of protest, hear this….. This ignorant, selfish, greedy and cataclysmic trend must be reversed, THESE DANGEROUS NEW INSECTICIDES MUST BE BANNED.

  8. Anne Wengerd

    We worry about terrorists from other lands – we need to worry more about our own “home grown” variety which we, as a peoples, elected into government and are supposed to watch & care for us. The destruction of the environment is going at a pace so fast, that I fear for my grandchildren and the life they will face unless there is a stop to the insanity. With the floods, droughts, wildfires, tornados and even earthquakes the growing of foods becomes more & more difficult. Then we allow thousands of various chemicals to be put into our food chains both animal & vegetable, as well as our air & water. Fracking for cheap gas (that’s a joke) poisons the very limited supply of fresh water on this earth – can’t eat or drink cheap gas or oil…..And to make sure that the human population is eliminated, we allow the bees which are needed to make sure foods grow – to be killed – that will insure starvation worldwide… All of this for the greed of the corporations who don’t give a “hoot or toot” about anything except money. How sad God must be to see this beautiful planet he gave us to end up the way it is headed……..

  9. Diane R

    Agree with all the comments here. We already have food crises in many parts of the world. With populations of bees and bats crashing, soon we will have only “artificial” food of various kinds. We are totally destroying the earth and its creatures for profit. I could rant on for hours, but will stop now. Thanks to all the organizations and people who work so hard to spread the word!

  10. erwin brinkmanw

    Without bees and bats we will die because there will not be any fruit and vegetables for us to eat. The farmers have to find some other way to kill the insects which are eating the crops.

  11. Michelle

    My husband and I have several hives on our property. We give away honey and candles in an effort to educate our community on the importance of honey bees.
    What people do not understand is just how important they are to our food.
    They need protection. It is our responsibility to educate everyone as to just how
    important a part they play in our environment.

  12. Tom

    Oh man, you boys and girls are really lapping up the Kool-Aid and spin.
    First, nobody knows what is causing colony collapse disorder. Cell Towers? Winter feeding errors? Mites? Mite treatment that also kill the bee? Invasion and loss of honey to traveling bees (apiarists haul bees thousands of miles from Northern states to CA for the almond blossom, TX for the pecan blossom, and eventually back north for cranberries, apples etc. The traveling bees rob honey from the locals. If weak, they starve.)
    Apis Mellifera – the western honeybee – is an invasive species from Europe and Asia. Some crops like almond and pecan have been bred to pollinate best with Apis, but there are many bees, flies, birds, hummingbirds, wasps etc that did it before honeybees were introduced, and will likely continue.
    Apis Mellifera is prone to disease – mites, fungi, bacteria and viri. Hobbyists coat hives with various paints that are toxic to bees, killing off the hive.
    Applying any pesticide to flowering plants that bees visit is not following the label. By definition, it kills them. That is true for ‘organic’ pesticides too.
    Neonicotinoids are systemic pesticides that plants take up by the roots, targeting worms that eat foliage or burrow under the bark. As a rule Apis Mellifera doesn’t eat foliage.

    Fruit growers face the dilemma of consumers demanding cheap fruit. And perfect fruit. And fruit without pesticides. You cannot have all three.

  13. mark

    I’m beginning to think that they hire EPA and FWS staff from the worst hard core criminals of society.


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