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. Ingrid Bolaños

    Me siento agradecida con DIOS por personas como ustedes que aman la naturaleza y tratan de proteger, rescatar y salvar a tantas diversas especies de animales que habitan nuestro bello planeta. Tantas personas no dimensionan el daño que causan al Medio Ambiente con sus actitudes destructivas al mismo y considero que esas dañinas acciones, están acabando hábitats, especies y cambiando aceleradamente el clima de la tierra; sé que existen muchas organizaciones que día tras día luchan y hacen su mejor esfuerzo por hacer conciencia ambientalista alrededor del mundo y ustedes forman parte de esa gran tarea.
    Aplaudo su interés y valentía para realizar tan necesaria labor.
    Desde El Salvador,
    Ingrid Bolaños

  2. Maria Flengas

    Whst is your problem? You have science staring you in the face, telling you what a bas idea this is and what? You must be a special kind of stupid!!

  3. Karen Mayer

    It is indefensible, given the available science, that the presticide industry is allowed to continue poisoning the environment and eradicating essential species. Like so many other governmental agencies, the EPA is provinf itself to be a faarce, funded by taxpayers’ money. Don’t the people who work there understand that if they help destroy the environment, their families will be affected, too? The state of our nation is patthetic, but at this rate, it won’t matter much longer.

  4. Susan Freeman

    This is outrageous!! These pesticides need more studies done before another is
    introduced. “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.” That is unbelievable and more work/studies need to be done before moving forward.

  5. Glo Simons

    Without our bees life on earth will cease. Flowers, vegetables equal food.
    These insecticides are killing our bees. Please ban these deadly chemicals!

  6. Marilyn McCall

    I cannot believe yet another pesticide is approved that could continue to kill bees. Having lived in AZ since 2000 and in this home with our flower beds I have definitely seen a decline in the number of bees in our garden. Earlier in the decade when the lavender was in bloom, the yard practically hummed! Now it doesn’t….that says a lot to me. We try to keep various plants especially for bees. I hope our country’s future will be considered by stopping more and more pesticides, rather than increasing their usage!

  7. Lourdes Cordero

    Thank you so much for standing strong to protect the bees. I live in Vienna, Austria and I know that in Salzburg, after millions of bees began to die, scientists began to do thorough studies and research to find out the cause of this phenomenon and they found a great amount of neonicotinoids pesticide inside the little bodies of the dead bees. It was clear that this was the reason for the death of millions of bees. In spite of one politician who stood stubbornly defending Monsanto’s pesticide, after cries and protests of the Austrian People, the government then decided to ban this pesticide. Eventually it was also banned in all EU countries. I have no doubt that the EPA is aware of these studies and eventual decision to ban the pesticide in EU countries. I don’t know why they ignore this and keeps allowing the use of that pesticide in the USA. Please stand strong to fight for our little bees….we, the people, are enormously grateful for all your efforts.

  8. jesus silva

    Thanks for a great work to stop the killing of our ecosystem in our planet

  9. Dana

    Dear EPA,

    Isn’t the point of your existence to protect the environment from poisoning and destruction?

  10. Jane G.

    It seems the EPA is also bought and paid for by the big corporations. I would assume that people working at the EPA enjoy eating – well, with no pollination there will be less on their plates. Are they ignorant of the fact that they are destroying an ecosystem all for the sake of a few extra dollars for corporate America. You cannot eat money!

  11. Shannon C.M Hitchcock

    I can’t believe the government isn’t doing more! The honey bee & other pollinators are directly responsible for not just the obvious 70% of the country’s food production, but if you extrapolate that out, for million of jobs and BILLIONS of dollars to the economy!!! Wouldn’t it make more sense to stop using this class of of insecticides until proven safe!

  12. Stela Maricic

    Without Bees, humans and Planet Earth will not exist anymore ! So try to open your minds and put common efforts to start protecting Bees and all other endangered animal species ASAP !

  13. Amy Choisser

    My father is a bee keeper, so I grew up knowing everything about bees. Aside from honeybees being major pollinators, they are an essential part of the ecosystem as well as a keystone species. They also provide honey that the human body tolerates naturally. Local honey helps those who suffer with plant allergies and is a natural healer. So, if the environment needs bees for many reasons, and they also also provide a healthy wellbeing, why does anything else need to be said? I think it speaks for itself. Find something else to spray that is a natural insecticide like essential oil products opposed to poison. We are what we breathe and eat, i don’t care how much money you have. A closed system, means, it is closed. Everything we put into the earth we get back out of it.

  14. Terry Strahl

    I hope we wake-up before its to late !
    We are slowly destroying nature…….

  15. Deb Reis

    Thank you for standing up for bees! It appears to be all about the money and big Ag. I can’t imagine that the EPA isn’t following the science and common sense!

  16. Penny Leas

    This is simply disgusting. The pesticide has been PROVEN to be extremely detrimental to honeybees by the EPA, and yet that same agency approves its usage? There is an ulterior motive here. Someone is getting rich somewhere. We have already lost too many bees due to these insecticides. Our ecosystem can’t stand to lose ANY more. Each and every remaining bee is becoming more precious. STOP using neonicotinoids! Thank you Defenders, for standing up for our honeybees. You are also defending our agricultural future!

  17. Nancy Wells

    How did these people attain employment by the EPA? What are the requirements? Coldhearted, No Compassion for Life, Power-driven, BULLY-MASTER????

  18. Andrew

    Really? Is the government this stupid, no, none is THIS stupid, there must be corruption about!

  19. Andrew

    Pesticides should be outright banned altogether, they are destroying our ecosystem, next is us! If we don’t ban pesticides altogether, bees will continue to struggle and just as bad all the new pesticides will have to be tested, ON ANIMALS, PESTICIDES ARE A LOSE LOSE SITUATION, THEY REQUIRE ANIMAL TESTING TO SEE IF THEY ARE “SAFE” (which they never are) AND EVEN WORSE OUR BEE POPULATIONS ARE GOING!

  20. shirley washburn

    This is the only planet we have even tho NASA may be looking.

    we are the caretakers not the destroyers

  21. Linda Anderson

    If you want to die, go ahead but dont kill everyone else because of this insecticide.

  22. Cynthia Swindells

    Can’t understand how the EPA approved Sulfoxaflor despite their own agency scientists having considered it to be highly toxic to honeybees

  23. Margaret S

    Nicotinoids… the latest in a long list of poisons for profit… from DDT to Agent Orange, it is all about profits and damn the environment, the people or the wildlife. They are too busy counting the bucks to notice or care what happens to the rest of us. But when the air, water and soil are poisoned, they WILL learn that you cannot eat or breathe or drink money. I kind of hope there is a special hell for these people… golden cages filled with poisoned air and water, filled with gold but nothing real to fulfill their desire for food, drink, air… maybe a few lifetimes spent like that will teach them to protect the real treasures of the earth…but in the meantime we need to fight these stupid greedy mongrels on every front.

  24. Jainine Anderson Nielsen

    I am surprised there are educated people promoting and profiting from these toxic poisens that are in essence a crime against humanity, because no bees results in no people. Do these people have children or a conscience? Allow the bees the freedom to live.

  25. Carol Feck

    I’ve read the article and all the posts. I have nothing new to say, but it is beyond belief that supposedly intelligent “protectors of our environment” can be so short-sighted. Yes, a bee is a tiny insect that none of us really like to encounter on a personal basis, but they are an essential part of of the delicate balance in our world ecology. Can we not learn from the experiences in Europe that these pesticides are dangerous??? Must we insist on making our own mistakes and paying the price. Have we learned nothing from our own mistakes that nearly wiped out the bald eagles because DDT caused the egg shells to be too fragile for them to even incubate their young? Agent Orange not only harmed the environment in VietNam but it permanently damaged the health of the soldiers who were exposed to it during that conflict. God put us here to be CARETAKERS of the earth, but it seems that we just can’t destroy it fast enough. No, No, NO!!! We do not need anymore harmful pesticides, herbicides or other “cides”. We need a healthy CLEAN world to live in. Wake up EPA!!!

  26. Ronnie Sipe

    EPA….WAKE UP! This will thoroughly destroy our Ecco-System…..DO YOU CARE?

  27. John Curotto

    In the eNews letter link to this article, DoW wrote “so why has the EPA registered yet another of these substances for use?”. Yet, in this article that question is not answered. The citizenry need such information to pressure our agencies into making more appropriate environmental responses to applications for new products. WHO, exactly approved this chemical over the advice of its own scientists?!?

  28. John J. Marotta

    WE THE PEOPLE are telling you that Bees are a vital part of Our Ecology and Lives and must be protected

  29. Ayelet H. Zimmerman

    T-H-A-N-K Y-O-U guys & girls at ‘Defenders’,
    for taking action on this highly important matter !!!!!!!
    We are all indebted to your determination and Just Fights for what is RIGHT.

    God bless you all.
    Northern Israel.

  30. Patrick Davidson

    Thanks for your great effort in blocking these dangerous pesticides. What can we do to help? Buy stock in Monsanto, Bayer, Johnson and Johnson and ? work through the shareholder meetings? Don’t buy products from these companies and write them?

  31. Kathy B

    There should never be any approval for a pesticide that harms bees! This is a
    given that our food supply is in danger without bees so why does this keep

    • Gio

      One of the best ways is to find a local bee keeper, and ask if you can help. If you don’t know any bee keeeprs, you can go to a bee supply store, and ask them for a list of bee keeeprs, a lot of stores have a list that they give out to people needing to have a swarm caught. Also if you see a bee stand in someones garden, you can stop and ask them who the bees belong to, and contact them that way.On good thing about working with someone that already has bees, is you will learn before you get involved if its for you, and you might get a lb. of honey for your trouble.

  32. Patrick Smyth

    I think everything has been said, except the following. If Monsanto can corner the market with its manufactured food and kill everything that threatens it with its manufactured toxins and provides you with its manufactured water, after it has polluted all the water sources, then it has won the end game, so it thinks. These are really stupid people. But, greed and thirst for power are as stupefying as an opiate high. One will do anything for it, no matter what the cost to another or one’s self. There is no integrity in that system.
    Also, it’s high time we debunk the manufactured idea of “the survival of the fittest”. Someone made it up and inaccurately hitched it to Darwin’s work about Natural Selection. “Survival of the fittest” is the biggest fraudulent belief we have today and all of us support it and buoy it up, though we have no idea we are doing so.
    Yet, our entire capitalist system bases itself on this ignorant and selfish perception of the world. We base our entire operations on survival, rather than ‘thrival’. Thriving takes caring and consideration for all around you, whether we like it or not (I mean this because it takes allot more work to thrive, but it is especially satisfying work; it is the spreading of love, which can be difficult to learn and do). We have to become committed to identifying when we are operating out of survival, acknowledge it to those to whom we commit such acts (even to ourselves) and clean it up and make restitution.
    Again, nature does not operate out of the false perception of “survival of the fittest.” “Survival of the fittest” is built out of the perception of scarcity. Nature is not based in scarcity. It is based in abundance. Only humans act out of scarcity. It is built into our brains, so we invented “survival of the fittest” to justify our heinous actions toward each other and the natural world.
    While the 2 biggest bucks are fighting, do you think the horny does and other smaller bucks are sitting around waiting to see who wins? No, they are yards away taking advantage of the urges they have. It’s ridiculous to think the fighting is like an NFL game, with all waiting for the victor to enjoy his spoils.
    We humans want to think that way because it gives us a “right” – “naturally” and “God-given”- to destroy others of our own species and all the environment on which other species depend. We pretend we have vanquished, when we are really vanquishing ourselves.
    I’ll stop here, but look for how you live this pretentious lie of “survival of the fittest” and “winner take all” and maybe you can find a more peaceful, satisfying way to express yourself in this world we have.

  33. Hope Brown

    This is an example of corporate welfare above simple science and the future of the planet. Is Monsanto responsible for the indifference to all the inhabitants of planet Earth? Monsanto has a representative and spokesperson (although he seldom speaks or writes) on our Supreme Court. We may be doomed by the corporate and personal greed overtaking our culture. The bee crisis is world wide. I saw More Than Honey and it is sad, moving, and beautiful. Everyone should see it.

  34. Heather

    Sadly the EPA and big corporations are very aware of the destruction the pesticides are causing. Their whole objective, in my opinion, is to corner the market on ANYTHING grown, eventually Monsanto will be in the business of selling genetically engineered seeds for flowers and trees once they’ve wiped out the bee population. It’s big business for them and that’s the ONLY thing they will ever care about!

  35. colin moore

    EPA-Everywhere Poisoning & Attrition.
    Wake up and smell the Roses, before they are all gone!

  36. Cecilia Guerra

    Defenders of Wildlife…..this is an essential cause and I applaud you for taking a stand. Please reach out to every pro-bono law firm/association and environmental association which goal is defending the environment….you are up against big corporations with deep pockets and need all the legal/lobbying power you can muster to ensure that federal legislation is passed to protect the bees and eradicate the use of toxins of all types which are deadly to them.

    I support you in your efforts……

  37. Sherry Bailey

    Bees Please❣ Stop polluting our air, water & food sources from chemical contamiNation of our Nation❣

  38. Olga Rios

    No entiendo que parte de que todos somos uno, estos ignorantes no entienden. Si estas criaturas perecen, perece el humano tambien. Agradezco infinitamente su lucha por defender estas injusticias. La lucha para salvar el lobo de esas masacres tambien es agradecida. Hay otras maneras de enfrentar el problema, es solo que destruyendolo es la via mas facil y menos costosa.. Este gobierno es un desatre!!. Ha dado la espalda a los animales y a la naturaleza. Lobos, caballos salvajes, prairie dogs , luz verde a Monsanto y un sin numero de burradas mas llevan a sus espaldas. Todo por dinero y por ganar votos y los ignorantes acabando con todo.

  39. Chris R. Monroe

    No US government taxpayer-supported entity should be allowed by law to accept payoffs from any corporate entity that harms anything that’s in the American public interest, including its NATURAL heritage. I’m not implying that companies be allowed to use private funds to pay for any kind of influence having to do with the American public interest.

  40. Lisa Luz

    The EPA was founded during the Vietnam war, first as an independant organization to help soldiers that were exposed to pesticides/agent orange and to send a message to our government that using chemicals in warfare is horrible. They were well meaning but needed to have funding, so they accepted funding from our government do they could have a voice. But over time, the EPA evolved into something else, why on earth does this happen? It is a such a shame that our country has to practice ignorance and corruption. I am saddened and ashamed. I have known two veterans that have been exposed to agent orange, one of which was exposed during an experiment in Arizona, when our government spayed a field with pesticides, sent the troops out to be exposed, so they could taked notes on the devastation. I ask myself why?

  41. Addie Spencer

    Monsanto and others in Big Ag have got the EPA in their pockets. It is so obvious it’s pathetic. I am enjoying being part of the Thrive Movement because it gives people an opportunity to connect with others who care about saving our beloved earth.

  42. Sue

    May be a good time to educate the USERS of these toxic substances-if no one ‘s “buyin’ what they’re sellin'”,we don’t have to wait for the government to do anything!Spread the news!

  43. Mary I. Erickson

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

  44. 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.

  45. 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.

  46. 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!

  47. 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.

  48. 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.

  49. 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.

  50. 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……..

  51. 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!

  52. 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.

  53. 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.

  54. 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.

  55. 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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