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Posted on March 3, 2014 | 3:31 p.m.

Bees in Danger: California DFA Plans Pesticide Application in Carpinteria, Summerland

Source: Todd Bebb for the Santa Barbara Beekeepers Association

In response to the discovery of two Asian Citrus Psyllid (ACP) in residential citrus trees in Carpinteria and Summerland, the California Department of Food & Agriculture is planning a targeted pesticide application in Carpinteria, in the Cravens Lane and Foothill Road area, possibly affecting numerous residential properties. This application follows on the heels of similar sprayings throughout the state and most recently Ojai in Ventura County.

According to the CDFA, ACP can carry and transmit a devastating bacterial disease called Huanglongbing (HLB).

It should be noted that HLB has not been detected in any of the samples, but because of risk to the citrus industry, the state has been aggressively monitoring and attempting to control the pest. Several alternatives to this treatment exist; including netting citrus trees and far less toxic treatments that organic growers have used successfully.

The three pesticides intended to be applied including Imidacloprid, a neonicotinoid, all are labeled by the manufacturer to be “highly toxic to bees exposed to direct treatment or residues on blooming crops or weeds.” Dozens of independent studies on Imidacloprid, as well as other neonicotinoid pesticides, confirm impacts on bees and colony health including colony collapse disorder (CCD).

As many citrus trees are currently in bloom in the intended treatment area where local bees are foraging, an application of these insecticides poses an extremely high risk of poisoning, injuring, and potentially exterminating local honeybee colonies.

Last year, 18 beehives collapsed in nearby Montecito. Penn State University tested samples of the comb and honey which showed the presence of a number of pesticides.

“Honey bees across the country are being exposed to a great diversity and sometimes high levels of pesticides," Penn State senior extension associate Maryann Frazier said. "While the evidence associated with the Montecito die-off is not conclusive, the symptoms of colony deaths and detections of low levels of pesticides toxic to honey bees are suspicious and cause for concern.”

Just last week, Assemblyman Das Williams introduced a bill, AB 1789, that would set a timeline for the California Department of Pesticide Regulation to determine whether the pesticide neonicotinoids are driving bee die-offs across the country. The Santa Barbara Beekeepers Association is sponsoring the bill.

CDFA will be sending notifications to homeowners within the treatment area, but will not be holding any public hearing. Residents DO have the option of requesting to opt out of treatment and should inquire further.

Honeybees are responsible for the pollination of at least 95 kinds of crops. Local beekeepers and supporters of beekeeping are highly committed to providing safe, healthy, and pesticide-free environments for honeybees, as well as other important pollinators.

“Honeybees and other pollinators are getting hit hard, but there are things we can do to reduce the threats to them,” SBBA President Paul Cronshaw said.

“These chemicals have been banned in the European Union, and it is only appropriate that their use be conditional on good scientific evidence,” said Todd Bebb of the Beekeepers Association.

Voluntary monitoring and treatments using less invasive and harmful methods by owners of citrus trees are encouraged.

Click here for a document about treatments published by the USDA. Click here for a document about ACP/HLB Facts and Identification published by the CDFA.

— Todd Bebb is vice president of the Santa Barbara Beekeepers Association.

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