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Good News from the EPA !


Good News from the EPA!

Randy Oliver

First published in ABJ January 2024


Last month I wrote about a letter that I written in July to the EPA, asking for clarification as to whether they actually had authority under FIFRA to justify restricting beekeepers from using generic oxalic acid (and other natural treatments) in their own hives, since they had a mandate to do so only if they had determined that such use would pose unreasonable risk to the environment.

We finally got an answer

In early November, me and some other leaders of our industry were invited to a Zoom meeting in which members of the Biochemical Pesticides Branch informed us that EPA was not going to restrict such use.

 High five — this is great news for our industry!  Charlie Linder has been very involved and active, working with our lobbyist Fran Boyd, to represent both ABF and AHPA in Washington, D.C.  Here we are celebrating EPA’s (verbal) answer at the California State Conference.  Photo by Rob Stone.

Upon hearing this clarification, I requested the Biopesticides Division to please ask their Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance to inform all State Lead Agencies of this decision.  At the time of this writing, we’re still waiting for written confirmation.  Beekeepers in each state may need to clarify their own state’s position.

This does not mean that anyone can go ahead and sell any product as a varroacide without first getting it registered.  It only means that beekeepers are not restricted (at the federal level) from using the generic substances for their own use, within the confines of their own hives.  We of course can continue to use any currently, or soon-to-be registered products (there are at least three companies (that I know of) currently in the registration process for OAE formulated products).

This decision means that individual beekeepers may by next season be able to also legally prepare and apply their own oxalic acid, thymol, formic acid, or essential oil treatments using off-the-shelf ingredients (being careful not to add any contaminants).

Practical application: We are currently in cooperative discussion with the Biochemical Pesticides Branch as far as them offering guidance to beekeepers for such use.  To be clear, no sale or advertisement of the generic products for pesticidal purposes will be permitted.

This decision by the EPA is a game-changer for us.  As I have previously written, a representative from the EPA had already stated that the Agency did not require beekeepers to obtain an Experimental Use Permit to experiment with oxalic acid for mite control, but our State Lead Agencies didn’t get the message.  With luck, by next season those beekeepers wishing to save money, invent better application methods, or engage in experimentation to bring novel formulated OA products to market will be able to do so without fear of enforcement action against them.

This confirmation from the EPA that beekeepers are not restricted (at least at the Federal Level) from using the generic natural substances in their own hives opens a new world of mite control to us.  With luck, the State Lead Agencies will follow the EPA’s lead.  This newfound freedom opens up opportunity for beekeepers to not only save money (and not break the law), but to also opens the door for experimentation to improve, develop, and (possibly) register novel application methods and formulated products.

But there’s also some potentially bad news

Talk about rain on our parade — we recently learned that EPA is planning on passing the baton to the FDA as far as registration, sale, and use of products for varroa control (see Charlie’s article in this issue).  We’re working on seeing whether we can cement in some sort of exemption for the generic substances before that happens.  Wish us luck!


Thanks to Charlie Linder and Fran Boyd for their assistance in my dealings with the EPA.

Update: Due to the hold on posting my articles to this website, things have greatly advanced from here.