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Luke Metzger,
Environment Texas

Alarming rate of bee deaths threatens summer picnics

For Immediate Release:

AUSTIN - Strawberries, watermelon, and juicy tomatoes are among the summer picnic staples at risk if bee colonies continue to collapse at unprecedented rates, local farmer Glenn Foore and Environment Texas said today.

Bees pollinate many of the world’s most important crops, including seasonal favorites such as peaches, blueberries, and cherries. But the U.S. is losing about a third of its bee colonies each year, alarming beekeepers, farmers and chefs along with environmental advocates.

Environment Texas staged a picnic at Auditorium Shores today to illustrate the importance of bees to our food supply: a table laden with fruits and vegetables made possible only by bee pollination

“Nowhere cares about fresh healthy food like Austin,” said Taylor Billings, citizen outreach director with Environment Texas “but what would we do this summer without avocados or salsa? That’s why we need immediate action to save the bees.”

“More than 60% of world crops increased quantity, quality, and stability because of pollinators” reported Shalene Jha, professor of biology at the University of Texas.

Tara Chapman, of Two Hives Honey, gave bee-friendly individuals some advice, urging them to “educate others, make our own yards more bee-friendly, and choose to give our business to local organic farmers and beekeepers.”

“We once could trust in nature to provide for us, and as good stewards of these amazing creatures, we knew the returns were almost guaranteed,” said Les Crowder, local beekeeping expert. “Now it can be very difficult indeed to care for honeybees, and beekeepers are becoming as threatened as their colonies. We strongly believe that advocating for organic agriculture is an important part of being a beekeeper intoday’s world.”

Scientists point to the increased use of and exposure to a class of pesticides known as neonicotinoids as a major cause of the recent increase in bee deaths, which have brought the U.S. population of the pollinators to historic lows.

Major garden retailers such as Lowes and Home Depot are already phasing out sales of the chemicals, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is currently evaluating the impact of four types neonics on pollinators.

Environmental advocates are urging the EPA to place an immediate moratorium on the dangerous pesticides and speed up the timing of the impact study, which is currently not scheduled for completion until 2018.

Joining with a broad range of groups in D.C. this week for a rally and celebration of “pollinator week,” representatives from Environment Texas delivered over 4,100 petitions to EPA asking for a ban on neonics.

“Given the information we already have about neonics and bee die-offs, the EPA should act as quickly as possible to stop the use of these chemicals,” said Billings. “Pesticide companies’ corporate interests cannot come before our food security.”

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Environment Texas is a citizen-funded advocacy organization working for a cleaner, greener, healthier future. http://www.environmenttexas.org