WASHINGTON, May 18, 2016 - Additional protections for pollinators are included in an EPA proposal that would allow use of sulfoxaflor, whose registration was pulled last year after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled the agency had not properly evaluated the insecticide’s effects on honey bees.

The proposed amended registration, made available May 17, also would prohibit use of the sulfoximine-class insecticide (trade name: Transform) on five crops for which it had previously been registered: citrus, cotton, cucurbits (gourd plants such as squash and pumpkins), soybeans and strawberry.

Cotton and citrus growers have found the chemical useful in battling pests. In interviews after the court decision in September, two entomologists told Agri-Pulse that sulfoxaflor was critical to these producers.

Michael Rogers, director of the Citrus Research and Education Center at the University of Florida, said sulfoxaflor is one of only two effective controls for Asian psyllids – which cause citrus greening – during the six- to eight-week bloom period. Gus Lorenz, an extension entomologist and distinguished professor at the University of Arkansas, said “it's very, very difficult for [cotton growers] to get control of plant bugs” without sulfoxaflor.

EPA called the proposed registration “very protective of pollinators,” citing conditions that will not allow use of the insecticide on “bee-attractive” crops before and during bloom. Applications also would be prohibited on crops grown for seed production.  

“Additional measures are being proposed to reduce spray drift: prohibiting applications if wind speeds are above 10 mph and requiring the use of medium to coarse spray nozzles,” EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP) said.

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EPA is asking for comments by June 17 on two provisions: “One that would impose a downwind, 12-foot, on-field buffer zone when there is blooming vegetation bordering the treated field and the second would prohibit tank mixing sulfoxaflor with other pesticides. (You can access EPA’s regulatory docket by clicking here.)

“These restrictions practically eliminate exposure to bees in the field, which reduces the risk to bees below EPA’s level of concern such that no additional data requirements are triggered,” OPP said.

In the proposed registration, EPA categorized the crops proposed for registration by their attractiveness to bees:

Not Bee Attractive:

• Barley, triticale, wheat

• Turf grass

Harvested Before Bloom:

• Brassica leafy vegetables

• Bulb vegetables

• Leafy vegetables (non-Brassica) and watercress

• Leaves of root and tuber vegetables

• Root and tuber vegetables

Bee Attractive but Applications Post-Bloom Only:

• Berries (Grape, Blueberry, Cranberry)

• Canola

• Fruiting Vegetables (Tomato, Pepper, Eggplant) and Okra

• Pome fruit

• Ornamentals

• Potato

• Stone Fruit

• Succulent and Dry Beans

• Tree nuts and pistachio