About Matt Kelly

Matt is an independent science journalist, and the author and editor of The Bee Report.

When is a pesticide not a pesticide? When it coats a seed

Image of farmers looking at coated seeds.

(Bloomberg Environment) If you apply a chemical to a field of crops, either from a sprayer towed behind a tractor or from above, by an aerial crop duster, that is considered a pesticide. However, if you take that same chemical and coat it on a seed, then plant that seed in the ground, it ceases to be pesticide – at least according to government regulators. This exemption is what allowed the use of neonics to take off in the late 1990s. But this exemption was never meant for agriculture.

One year anniversary for our paper on the bees of GSENM

Map showing bee species richness in the monument.

It was one year ago today that Joe Wilson, Olivia Carril and I published our paper that explores how shrinking and carving up the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument might impact the incredible bee communities that live there. The issues raised in the paper are what took us back to the monument this past summer to continue studying the bees and create our documentary film. Give it a read when you have the chance, it’s open access.

Will state policies predict national action to protect pollinators?

Map showing pollinator policies by state.

One thing I’ve enjoyed tracking and following this year is the seemingly increasing number of state-level initiatives to protect bee and insect populations. The Saving America’s Pollinators Act is a bill that’s been introduced several different times at the federal level but has, once again, stalled out in committee. The current national political conditions seem much more conducive to state and local actions when it comes to taking bees and other insects into consideration.

A new way to assess the danger that pesticides can pose to bees

Image of female hoary squash bee.

Discussing the hazards that different pesticides might potentially pose to bees can be a frustrating and tricky thing. The problem is that risk assessments are done with honey bees. And the honey bee is by no means representative of the roughly 3,999 other bee species in North America. Sure, a certain dose of a certain chemical under certain conditions might not kill off a perennial honey bee colony with tens of thousands of individuals. But what would the effect be on a single bee who is alive for only six weeks, raising her brood of eight? Especially when the greatest exposure to pesticides can come from the soil.

This has been a bad week for bees

Image of rusty patch bumble bee.

The Trump administration weakened the Endangered Species Act. Franklin’s bumble bee is being considered for the Endangered Species List – but under the newly-weakened law. And the yellow-banded bumble bee won’t be considered for protection as an endangered or threatened species (despite the fact that it’s now found in only 14 of the 25 states it used to inhabit).