Environment: EPA to boost reviews for pesticide impacts to endangered species

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Will the EPA follow through on its new policies to better analyze pesticide impacts to endangered species?

Conservation advocates say new guidelines are a good first step

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Endangered species may get more protection from pesticides under new guidelines that require federal agencies to better assess the risks posed by toxic chemicals.

The policies will ensure that mitigation measures recommended by the federal wildlife agencies are put in place to protect endangered species in agricultural areas, as well as in areas downstream that are affected by pesticide runoff.

According to environmentalists, the EPA has routinely ignored the Endangered Species Act for more than two decades by failing to consult with wildlife agencies on pesticide impacts. In 2011 Congress asked the National Academy of Sciences to study this issue and report on ways of addressing the EPA’s failures to fully protect listed species. Continue reading

Biodiversity: Feds agree to study pesticide impacts to rare frogs in California

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USGS sampling found that Pacific chorus frogs in many remote Sierra Nevada locations are contaminated by pesticides and fungicides used in agricultural production in California’s Central Valley. Photo courtesy USGS.

Court settlement may ultimately help protect endangered amphibians

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — In a classic case of government do-nothingism, federal agencies have known for years that pesticides are killing rare California frogs — but have failed to act to protect the amphibians from the poisons.

But that should change soon, as a federal court this week approved a deal that requires the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to prepare detailed environmental studies on the effects of seven common pesticides: Glyphosate, malathion, simazine, pendimethalin, permethrin, methomyl and myclobutanil.

The studies, called biological opinions in government jargon, will evaluate and disclose how the use of those chemicals affects California’s red-legged frogs when they’re used in and near the frog’s aquatic and upland habitats. Continue reading

Study: Low-level pesticide exposure causes bees to stop working for their colonies

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Bees are suffering from exposure to pesticides.

More evidence showing that systemic neonicotinoids are having a significant impact

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Even if systemic neonicotinoid pesticides don’t kill bees directly, they are contributing to the collapse of honey bee colonies, according to new research by scientists from Royal Holloway University.

Low-level exposure can change bees’ behavior, causing them to  stop working properly for their colonies. The results suggest that exposure to pesticides at levels bees encounter in the field, has subtle impacts on individual bees, and can eventually make colonies fail. Continue reading

Environment: Frogs up and down the Sierra Nevada are tainted with pesticides from the Central Valley

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USGS sampling found that Pacific chorus frogs in many remote Sierra Nevada locations are contaminated by pesticides and fungicides used in agricultural production in California’s Central Valley. Photo courtesy USGS.

Study even finds trace remnants of DDT, banned 40 years ago

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Frogs in remote Sierra Nevada backcountry ponds are contaminated with traces of pesticides, including a byproduct of DDT, which was banned more than 40 years ago, showing how long some pollutants can persist in the environment.

The chemicals are heavily used in California’s Central Valley, one of the most productive agricultural regions in the world, and transported via wind, dust and precipitation to the High Sierra. Continue reading

Environment: Pesticides may be at the root of bee, bat and amphibian die-offs

Suppressed immune systems making insect-eating species more susceptible to different pathogens

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Two years ago, this species of bee vanished from local flowerbeds in Frisco, Colorado.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Waves of emerging wildlife diseases that are killing huge numbers of insect-eating animals could all be linked to the use of a new class of pesticides, according to a study recently published in the Journal of Environmental Immunology and Toxicology.

Neonicotinoids and related pesticides may be suppressing the immune system of bees, bats and even amphibians, making them much more susceptible to parasites, viruses and fungal infections, the researchers found after comparing geographical patterns of emerging diseases with the use of neonicotinoids.

Insects feeding on the pollen and nectar of crops treated with the pesticides absorb the chemicals and the poison is subsequently passed on to animals higher up the food chain that prey on those bugs, the scientists hypothesized, citing evidence of deviation from normal pathogen-host relationships. Continue reading

Beekeepers fight EPA’s pesticide approval in court

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Honey bees are in trouble, and more pesticides won’t help.

Concern over pollination services and colony collapse drive legal challenge

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Beekeepers around the country are feeling stung by the EPA’s approval of a new pesticide that’s known to be toxic to bees, and are headed to court to try and prove that the EPA didn’t consider all the facts when it gave the go-ahead for Sulfoxaflor.

The new pesticide was developed because some insect pests have developed a resistance to older pesticides, but it’s related to the neonicotinoid class of pesticides, which scientists across the globe have linked as a potential factor to widespread and massive bee colony collapse.

The lawsuit comes as beekeepers across the country struggles for survival. Just in the past few months, Florida beekeepers have reported losing 1,300 hives, with even greater losses in Minnesota (2,312 hives). By some estimates, about 10 million bee hives, valued at about $200 each, have been lost, costing beekeepers a total of $2 billion. Continue reading

Biodiversity: Even at ‘safe’ levels, pesticides are having catastrophic impacts on aquatic ecosystems

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Dragonflies are taking a big hit from pesticides, even at levels deemed “safe” by lab tests. Bob Berwyn photo.

Study documents dramatic regional decline of insect species

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — After studying ecosystems contaminated with pesticides, scientists say they’ve been able to measure a dramatic loss of invertebrate biodiversity in polluted streams and rivers.

The study is one of the first to document the toxic effects of pesticides at a regional ecosystem level, rather than exptrapolating toxicity from lab tests.

“The current practice of risk assessment is like driving blind on the motorway”, said ecotoxicologist Matthias Liess. “To date, the approval of pesticides has primarily been based on experimental work carried out in laboratories and artificial ecosystems.” Continue reading

Biodiversity: More studies link bee woes with pesticide use

Chemical cocktail inhibits bees’ ability to learn important tasks

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Pesticides toxic to non-target insects. Bob Berwyn photo.

By Summit Voice

Two new studies strengthen the link between agricultural pesticide use and declining bee populations, as researchers showed that exposure to the chemicals can hinder bees’ ability to learn.

The researchers found that the pesticides, used in the research at levels shown to occur in the wild, could interfere with the learning circuits in the bee’s brain. They also found that bees exposed to combined pesticides were slower to learn or completely forgot important associations between floral scent and food rewards. Continue reading

Colorado foresters say no need to spray for pine beetles

Local company continue to offer spraying services, saying some property owners would rather be safe than sorry

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Pine beetle populations have dropped to the lowest level in 30 years in parts of the Colorado high country. Bob Berwyn photo.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — While some local property owners report that they’re getting advertisements from local tree spraying companies about protecting lodgepole pines from mountain pine beetles, state officials say there’s no need to apply pesticides this year.

“Mountain pine beetle numbers are the lowest they’ve been in 30 years,” said Ron Cousineau, district state forester for the area covering Summit and Grand counties. “The mountain pine beetle population has crashed … spraying has to be based on an actual threat,” he said. “The current population of pine beetles does not warrant spraying.”

Essentially, the bugs have killed most of the available trees. With very few brood trees remaining, beetle populations aren’t likely to reach epidemic levels again anytime soon. The latest forest surveys showed pine beetle activity on only about 200 acres in Summit County last year, with only a few pockets of trees within those areas affected by the beetles. Continue reading

Study challenges pesticide link with bee colony collapse

Earlier research may have some flaws

Honeybees and bumblebees are in big trouble. Photo by Bob Berwyn.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Honeybees may be dying from ingesting remnants of insecticides, but that in itself may nor be causing the widespread colony collapse being observed in many areas, according to new research published in the journal Science.

Starting in about 2006, beekeepers started reporting declines of 30 to 90 percent in many of their hives, in part due to a phenomenon known as Colony Collapse Disorder.

There are several studies showing that ingestion of pesticides leads to direct mortality, as well as a decline in the number of queen bees, which are critical to the establishment of new colonies following the winter die-off. Continue reading

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