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    Subject Term: Insects

    2 publications with a total of 7 open recommendations
    Director: Anne-Marie Fennell
    Phone: (202) 512-3841

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To help improve FWS's ability to evaluate the effectiveness of its compensatory mitigation strategies and ensure that the agency appropriately plans the obligations necessary for this purpose, the Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service should establish a timetable with milestones for modifying the RIBITS database to incorporate FWS's in-lieu fee program information.

    Agency: Department of the Interior: United States Fish and Wildlife Service
    Status: Open

    Comments: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service concurred with this recommendation. As of November 16, 2017, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has collaborated with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on a statement of work for the Regulatory In-lieu fee and Bank Information Tracking System (RIBITS) modifications. The statement of work includes detailed milestones and dates. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has set aside funds for modifications to the RIBITS database. The two agencies are in the process of finalizing the agreement.
    Director: Steve D. Morris
    Phone: (202) 512-3841

    6 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To improve the effectiveness of federal efforts to monitor wild, native bee populations, the Secretary of Agriculture, as a co-chair of the White House Pollinator Health Task Force, should coordinate with other Task Force agencies that have monitoring responsibilities to develop a mechanism, such as a federal monitoring plan, that would (1) establish roles and responsibilities of lead and support agencies, (2) establish shared outcomes and goals, and (3) obtain input from relevant stakeholders, such as states.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of December 2017, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) had taken relevant and positive actions but had not yet fully implemented GAO's February 2016 recommendation for monitoring wild, native bees. According to a senior USDA official, a Native Bee Monitoring Steering Committee composed of representatives from four USDA agencies is developing a response to GAO's recommendation. According to the official, the steering committee has taken or plans to take the following activities regarding a monitoring plan. (1) The committee held a stakeholder listening session on June 28, 2017, to obtain public opinion regarding (a) why a native bee monitoring program is important, (b) the type of information and data needed to adequately conduct monitoring, and (c) how the public would like to see the monitoring data used. Highlights of the input received at the listening session and the goals of the national monitoring plan were discussed in a symposium held November 7, 2017, at the National Entomological Society of America Annual Meeting in Denver, Colorado. USDA gathered additional recommendations from symposium participants based on monitoring programs for other declining species of concern, such as birds, bats, and butterflies. (2) The committee plans to develop a report or prospectus that will delineate activities being conducted by relevant federal agencies with responsibilities for surveying species of concern, including plans to coordinate activities and outline individual roles and responsibilities towards facilitating a national monitoring plan. According to the senior official, the steering committee is working with officials in USDA to ask other federal agencies associated with the Pollinator Task Force to summarize their current and future activities in support of monitoring native bee populations. The anticipated completion date for the report is March 30, 2018. (3) The committee plans to hold a "Scientists' Summit" on April 24-25, 2018, at the National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. The purpose will be to identify (a) feasible approaches for conducting a national monitoring effort, (b) what minimum data collection standards are needed for monitoring native bees effectively, and (c) possible mechanisms for making data publicly accessible. Workshop participants will include university and governmental experts on bees, statisticians, modelers and ecologists, and conservation biologists assessing other species in decline. Workshop discussion leaders will produce a whitepaper, which will include scientific recommendations on a national native bee monitoring strategy in the United States and will identify what USDA can do to better coordinate currently funded projects and will identify research gaps and funding needs. The expected completion date is September 30, 2018. These are positive steps and we support these efforts. Finalizing these actions will help USDA ensure that it and other federal agencies have effectively developed a mechanism for monitoring wild, native bee populations.
    Recommendation: To increase the accessibility and availability of information about USDA-funded research and outreach on bees, the Secretary of Agriculture should update the categories of bees in the Current Research Information System to reflect the categories of bees identified in the White House Pollinator Health Task Force's research action plan.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: In October 2017, the agency informed GAO that it planned to complete the recommendation during early fiscal year 2018.
    Recommendation: To better ensure the effectiveness of USDA's bee habitat conservation efforts, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Administrators of FSA and NRCS to, within available resources, increase evaluation of the effectiveness of their efforts to restore and enhance bee habitat plantings across the nation, including identifying gaps in expertise and technical assistance funding available to field offices.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of August 2017, the agency had not acted on our recommendation.
    Recommendation: To better ensure that EPA is reducing the risk of unreasonable harm to important pollinators, the Administrator of EPA should direct the Office of Pesticide Programs to develop a plan for obtaining data from pesticide registrants on the effects of pesticides on nonhoney bee species, including other managed or wild, native bees.

    Agency: Environmental Protection Agency
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of May 2017, the agency had taken actions relevant to the recommendation but had not fully developed a plan to obtain data from pesticide registrants on the effects of pesticides on non-honey bee species. According to EPA, until suitable test methods have been developed, the agency has continued to rely on honey bees as a surrogate for the broader range of bee species that include both solitary and social non-honey bees. The agency continues to track the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's (OECD's) efforts to develop suitable test methods to evaluate the effects of pesticides on non-honey bees. EPA provided comments to the OECD on the acute oral and acute contact toxicity test guidelines developed for bumble bees, which are social non-honey bee managed bees; these test methods were recently finalized by OECD as formal test guidelines. Also, EPA staff serve as members of the International Commission on Plant-Pollinator Relationship (ICP-PR), for which a non-honey bee workgroup has been developing acute and chronic toxicity test methods for other managed non-honey bees, including the solitary mason bee. EPA researchers in the National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory (within the Office of Research and Development) are developing methods for measuring effects of pesticides on bumble bee colonies through the use of micro-colonies, and will be participating in field studies over the next two years to determine the effectiveness of these methods in evaluating impacts to bumble bees from the use of pesticides used in horticulture. According to the agency, once sufficient data are available, EPA will be in a better position to determine the extent to which honey bees serve as reasonable surrogates for estimating the sensitivity of non-honey bees to pesticides. According to agency officials, EPA included the recent OECD acute contact and acute oral toxicity tests with bumble bees with the suite of laboratory and semi-field studies in a rulemaking effort that would codify these tests as formal data requirements for registrants. EPA had planned to solicit public comment on the proposed bumble bee testing requirements; however, the rulemaking effort has been delayed until the regulatory burden of the rule can be more thoroughly evaluated. According to agency officials, in January 2017, EPA hosted an international workshop on non-honey bees to evaluate the extent to which the primary routes of exposure for honey bees (i.e., contact and ingestion of residues in pollen/nectar) are protective and serve as suitable surrogates for evaluating exposure of non-honey bees to pesticides. Workshop participants discussed data needed to evaluate exposure for solitary and social non-honey bees. The proceedings of this workshop will be published in a peer-reviewed journal, and will inform EPA's understanding of whether additional routes of exposure need to be considered as part of EPA's risk assessment framework for pollinators. While these are positive developments, they do not constitute full implementation of the recommendation.
    Recommendation: To help comply with the directive in the White House Pollinator Health Task Force's strategy, the Administrator of EPA should direct the Office of Pesticide Programs to identify the pesticide tank mixtures that farmers and pesticide applicators most commonly use on agricultural crops to help determine whether those mixtures pose greater risks than the sum of the risks posed by the individual pesticides.

    Agency: Environmental Protection Agency
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of May 2017, EPA had taken actions relevant to this recommendation but had not fully implemented it. According to EPA, during February and March 2017, the Office of Pesticide Programs continued its efforts to monitor residues in honey bee colonies providing pollination services in almond orchards. In April 2017, EPA requested that the California Department of Pesticide Regulation provide Pesticide Use Reporting data, including specific formulation and quantities applied to specific sites on specific dates during almond bloom. EPA has also reached out to the Almond Board, as well as to beekeepers and almond growers, to request information on the most common tank mixes applied during almond bloom. Although EPA has previously requested Pesticide Use Reporting data from California and the state has provided preliminary data, the information was not sufficiently detailed to extract actual formulations applied on specific dates to specific areas within the almond growing region of California. The combination of information requested from the California Department of Pesticide Regulation and the Almond Board is expected to provide data to evaluate and identify commonly used pesticide tank mixes applied during almond pollination as a case study. According to EPA officials, data from California indicate that the use of tank mixtures in almond orchards decreased by roughly 60 percent from 2014 through 2016, suggesting that best management practices recommended by the Almond Board may be having a positive effect on almond grower practices with respect to tank mixtures. While these are positive developments, they do not yet fully implement the recommendation. It is not yet clear that EPA has used information on the identity of the most common tank mixtures to determine whether they pose greater risks than the sum of the risks posed by the individual pesticides. In addition, it is not yet clear that EPA has identified tank mixtures commonly used on crops other than almonds.
    Recommendation: To measure their contribution to the White House Pollinator Health Task Force strategy's goal to restore and enhance 7 million acres of pollinator habitat, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Administrators of the Farm Service Agency (FSA) and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to develop an improved method, within available resources, to track conservation program acres that contribute to the goal.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of March 2017, USDA had not acted on this recommendation.