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Controversial Insecticides to Carry Clearer Warnings to Protect Bees

Orlin Wagner
AP Photo

Northwest beekeepers are applauding the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for requiring certain pesticides to carry a clearer warning label. The idea is to prevent home gardeners and farmers from inadvertently harming beneficial pollinators, like bees.

The EPA directive applies to widely used bug killers, rose and flower treatments, and grub controls. Future labels will have to carry specific warnings under a picture of a bee. 

Washington State Beekeepers Association president Mark Emrich says he complained to EPA staff earlier this year that current labeling is inadequate.

"If somebody buys this product, they have to be able to apply it properly and they have to know how to do that. The labels fall short. I was very, very pleased to hear they acted on this,” Emrich said.

The EPA's director of pesticide programs says he's confident the label changes will be in the marketplace in the 2014 growing season. The new labels tell users not to apply insecticide on plants that are flowering and when bees are foraging. 

In recent years, many beekeepers around the West have experienced sharp die-offs in their hives, some of which they blame on pesticide exposure. 

Correspondent Tom Banse is an Olympia-based reporter with more than three decades of experience covering Washington and Oregon state government, public policy, business and breaking news stories. Most of his career was spent with public radio's Northwest News Network, but now in semi-retirement his work is appearing on other outlets.