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EPA: Popular insecticide could be hurting bees

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has put out a news release saying popular insecticides could harm bees.

According to the EPA's first of four preliminary insecticide risk assessments, some crops – citrus and cotton – have residual levels of the product in their pollen or nectar that are high enough to harm bees. They say that could result in fewer pollinators and less honey.

The risks do not apply to crops such as corn or leafy vegetables because they either don't produce nectar or they have safe residual levels, the EPA says.

The first assessment only looked into the neonicotinoid insecticide, imidacloprid. The agency says they'll release assessments for the three other neonicotinoids in Dec. 2016.

A head start in bee protection

One Minnesota business started taking precautions more than a year ago.

In 2014, Bachman's – a Minnesota home and garden business – announced they stopped using neonicotinoids on their plants. Around the same time, a group of beekeepers from Minnesota called for a ban on that insecticide.

The pesticide is known to cause paralysis and death in insects, but at the time there was no connection between the pesticide and decrease in honeybees.

The company's chief executive, Dale Bachman, said it was a precautionary move because they'd rather be overly careful than keep using the product and find out it's dangerous.

Looks like they made a good call.

Bee population

The EPA says some beekeepers reported they lost 30 to 90 percent of their hives in 2006 and 2007. The agency says the percentage of hives that did not survive the winter averaged about 29 percent since then. But last winter, it dropped to about 23 percent.

Even so, the Washington Post reports bee colony levels are on the rise. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in 2014, honey production was up 19 percent from 2013 and honey-producing colonies were up 4 percent.

Bloomberg says the U.S. government has distributed $40 million a year to research pollinators because $15 billion worth of crops depend on honeybees.

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