Portland Bans Insecticides Linked with Pollinator Declines

April 1, 2015

For Immediate Release

Contact: Aimee Code, Pesticide Program Coordinator, the Xerces Society; (541) 232-9767

Portland Bans Insecticides Linked with Pollinator Declines

The action provides a valuable update to the City’s pest management plan

PORTLAND, Ore.—Today Portland City Council unanimously passed an ordinance to halt the use and purchase of neonicotinoids, and other like systemic insecticides, on city property. The ordinance also amends the city’s Integrated Pest Management (IPM) strategies, phases out the purchase of neonicotinoid-treated plants and nursery stock by the city, and urges local retailers to label plants containing neonicotinoids.

Recognizing the importance of this decision, Scott Hoffman Black, Executive Director of the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, said “Portland is showing itself as an early leader in protecting our pollinators from harmful chemicals. Today’s vote demonstrates the Council’s dedication to long-term sustainability.”

Oregonians are familiar with how very toxic these chemicals can be due to seven bee-kill incidents over the last two years. Less publicized, but possibly more harmful to the long-term survival of Oregon’s bees, is the subtle but devastating effect of low-dose exposure to neonicotinoids. Impacts of neonicotinoids on bees include immune system suppression, reduced foraging capacity, making them less able to avoid predators, and diminished queen bee production. These effects can translate to significant population losses. Furthermore, these effects are found at exposure levels likely to occur from common legal uses.

Tim Wessels, co-owner of Bridgetown Bees, which rears locally adapted queen bees, and the founding president of the Portland Urban Beekeepers, recognized the benefits of the Council’s decision for his business and all local beekeepers. “Over the years we’ve seen the queens, and their colonies, struggle with sublethal effects from exposures to pesticides,” said Wessels. “Today’s decision shows the City’s dedication to protecting pollinators.”

This ban will help protect many other beneficial species also essential to healthy farms and natural areas. Research has shown that neonicotinoids harm beneficial insects that act as natural pest control. In addition, neonicotinoids readily move into water, where they are highly toxic to aquatic insects such as mayflies and caddisflies, important food items for Oregon’s struggling salmon populations.

The Xerces Society, and others, worked with the City of Portland to develop the ordinance and looks forward to continuing to work with the City to ensure a successful implementation.

Oregon has 800 species of bees, half of which can be found in the Willamette Valley and the Portland area. European honey bees and native bees jointly provide Oregon agriculture an estimated $600 million in pollination service annually. Predatory and parasitic insects and other arthropods provide natural pest suppression to farms, as well as to natural areas and developed landscapes, an ecosystem service valued nationwide at more than $4.5 billion per year.

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For more information:

The City of Portland’s new ordinance

Are Neonicotinoids Killing Bees? A Review of Research into the Effects of Neonicotinoid Insecticides on Bees

Beyond the Birds and the Bees. Effects of Neonicotinoid Insecticides on Agriculturally Important Beneficial Insects

Neonicotinoids in Your Garden