The EPA and USDA officials were confronted by several pointed questions regarding pesticides not being front-and-center in the report. The questions were inevitable considering findings of scientists in Europe, where a two-year ban on neonicotinoids is being considered.

“I don’t believe the report deemphasizes pesticides,” said Jim Jones, Acting Assistant Administrator, EPA Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. “It was the advice of the experts that led us to the conclusions we are announcing today: there are a range of factors that impact bee health.”

Jones further defended the report. “There are non-trivial costs to society if we get this wrong. (Pesticides) not only provide meaningful benefits to the farmers who use them but they generate benefits to consumers for affordable food.”

Berenbaum said studies of residues in hives have documented the presence of over 100 pesticides and metabolites. “It’s an incredibly complex situation. Pulling out one pesticide doesn’t remove the others. And they aren’t all the result of agricultural exposure. Some of the pesticides – in fact, the residues most frequently encountered – are pesticides used by beekeepers to control the varroa mite, which is the vector of many of the viral diseases that affect honeybees. It isn’t just a simple matter of removing pesticides.”