Bees are essential for one of three bites of food we eat, from almonds to soybeans to strawberries — but they’re in trouble. Last winter, beekeepers reported losses of 50-70 percent of their hives — the worst year yet since the global bee die-off began. Pests, diseases, and changing climate have all contributed to this die-off, but a growing body of scientific evidence points to the most widely-used pesticide on the planet, neonicotinoids (neonics) as the driving force behind this crisis. There is a large body of protest and controversy on both sides of this issue, as you would predict the companies producing neonics discuss their efficacy, and protest the testing methods. Neonics were thought to be a great improvement over thier precusor, organophosphates.
And neonics aren’t just used on commercial crops. These toxic pesticides are on the shelf at your local garden store – some supposedly “bee friendly” products actually contains bee-killing pesticides!
What’s even more shocking — many of the plants and seeds we buy from garden centers have been pre-treated with neonics, at doses up to 120 times higher than those used on farms. So, instead of helping bees in our gardens, we may be unknowingly poisoning them!
Fortunately, the European Union has just imposed a two-year ban on these toxic pesticides, and after a campaign by Friends of the Earth in the United Kingdom, major home and garden retailers in the UK have pledged to stop selling neonics.
“More than 30 separate scientific studies have found a link between the neonicotinoids, which attack insects’ nerve systems, and falling bee numbers. The proposal by European Commission – the EU’s legislative body – to ban the insecticides was based on a study by the European Food Safety Authority, which found in January that the pesticides did pose a risk to bees’ health.” —The Independent 5/29 article
Neonics are not only thought to harm honey bees, but also other helpful insects, like butterflies, bumble bees, dragonflies and ladybugs, and they may be impacting entire food chains — contributing to falling bird populations. These persistent toxins contaminate the soil for years, permeate the entire plant and are found in pollen, nectar and dew. Because they can’t be washed off food, we are all eating them daily.
Chemical companies like Bayer and Syngenta have been lobbying non-stop to end the ban in the European Union and prevent regulation in the U.S., where EPA has delayed action on these toxins until 2018.
But the bees can’t wait until 2018, we must develop a strategy based on solid science to find all the threats to our primary pollinators.