From: American Beekeeping Federation

P.O. Box 1038 - Jesup, GA 31598


August 8, 2000

Contact: Troy Fore - 912-427-4233

email: [email protected]

EPA Sets Tolerance Levels for Coumaphos

In some exciting and important news for the U.S. honey industry, the Environmental Protection Agency has agreed to establish tolerances for coumaphos in honey and beeswax.

The establishment of the tolerances will allow the sale of honey which has picked up minute amounts of coumaphos from the use of Bayer's Check-Mite+ strips, used to combat varroa mites and small hive beetles. Also, it will be permissible to sell comb honey from hives treated with Check-Mite.

The tolerances are 0.1 ppm for honey (one tenth part per million; same as 100 parts per billion) for honey. Recognizing that the chemical concentrates in beeswax, EPA is setting that tolerance at 100 ppm.

The determination of the tolerances was approved by EPA an Aug. 2. Notification of the new tolerances was scheduled for publication on the Federal Register during the following week. For the tolerances to be effective in a given state, that state's Section 18 permit for the use of Check-Mite must be amended by the EPA, a process which will take 7-10 days.

"This is an important break-through for our industry," said ABF President Clint Walker. "The need for these tolerances cannot be overstated. We have been continually working with EPA, telling them our needs and our concerns. From the ABF convention in Fort Worth, we supplied EPA with documentation on the importance of Check-Mite to our beekeepers and the importance of our beekeepers to the rest of agriculture. This is a story we must continue to tell."

EPA established the tolerance for coumaphos, an organophosphate, despite its general refusal to add further food uses while assessing all organophosphates. Some other industries have been refused new food uses for OPs pending the overall review.

In deciding to grant the tolerances for honey and beeswax, EPA recognized three factors:
  • The need for Check-Mite to control fluvalinate-resistant varroa is a nationwide problem, and the problem with small hive beetles is spreading. No alternative chemicals are available.
  • Honey bees provide a $14.6 billion benefit to agriculture. This was identified as the overriding factor in granting the tolerances.
  • The addition of the tolerances for honey and beeswax adds negligible risk to the consumer. In comparison the tolerance for coumaphos in other foods - all of which are consumed in far greater volumes than honey - are: 1 ppm in meat; 0.5 ppm in milk-fat; and 0.1 ppm in eggs.

The need for the tolerance was brought to the attention of Bayer and EPA by Sioux Honey, which had found coumaphos residues in honey from hives treated with Check-Mite strips. Those residues were on the order of 10-15 parts per billion.