Bees have been in the news lately but many people do not realize that there are contributing to the bee population demise. We all assume that this caused by the pesticide treated food crops but actually your garden may be contributing to the issue as well.
Many peer-reviewed studies point the finger at neonicotinoids as one of the major reasons for the sudden bee population decrease. The use of neonicotinoids started about 20 years ago and quickly became one of the most widely used insecticides on the planet. Unfortunately, we are all contributing to the problem in a not so small way because neonicotinoids are found in many things we have in our yard.
There are about 100 crop species that provide 90 percent of food globally and, of these, 71 are pollinated by bees.
What are neonicotinoids?
Neonicotinoids is a kind of insecticide that was developed to reduce the harm to mammals while still eradicating insects invading and eating plants specifically sucking insects, some chewing insects, soil insects, and is also used to control fleas on domestic animals. It works by attacking the neurological system of the insects eventually killing them. This kind of insecticide is not only sprayed on the plants while growing but is also sprayed on the seed and grows into the plant. Technically, everything that eats the plant ingest this chemicals.
What is happening to the bees?
In Canada, a beekeeper lost 600 hives, or a total of 37 million bees earlier this year after corn treated with neonictinoids were planted nearby. Bees have all of suddenly gone missing after leaving the hive and in one case in Oregon earlier this summer thousands of dead bees were found in a parking lot after trees were treated with neonictinoids. It is unclear how their deaths are actually caused some bees disappear likely being disoriented and cannot find their hive, others die from not pollinating enough and others just die a very early death. One fact has been proven bees that have been examined after their death have been found to have the pesticide on them.
It now takes 60% of the United States surviving colonies just to pollinate one California crop, almonds. California supplies 80% of the world’s almonds, a market worth $4 billion
So why isn’t it banned?
The state of Oregon put a temporary ban on their use after the parking lot incident. The European Union has banned its use for a period of time while they investigate the cause of bee population decline. There are obvious business interests that keep it from being banned in the US, many of the companies that make this insecticide are US-based companies. The US farmers also use it to help protect their financial interest in having a high yield crop. It has been widely believed that this form of pesticide poses less threat to mammals like humans so it has been favored over other alternatives. There are also next generations neonictinoids that are in development or have just been approved by the FDA.
What else is it found in other than plants?
It is also an ingredient in flea control for household pets. There are three neonicotinoid products on the market—imidacloprid (Advantage, Bayer Animal health), nitenpryam (Capstar, Novartis Animal Health) and dinotefuran (Vectra 3D, Summit VetPharm) (source Keeping Flea Products Straight).
How do I find plants that will not hurt bees?
Avoid all insecticides and keep your yard “organic.” Avoid any products that have the following ingredients listed in their active ingredients list. Different companies call the ingredient by different names so this chart from Friends Of The Earth will help you.
Also do your best to purchase organic plants for your garden. We tend to focus on organic fruits and veggies for the garden but we need to think about it for our plants as well.
What can I do?
Sign the Friends of the Earth petition to have Home Depot and Lowe’s to make sure their plants do not contain neonictinoids
Send a letter to your congressmen telling them about this issue and let them know you care about it.
Plant more bee friendly plants in your yard so your local beekeeper has safe plants for their bees to pollinate. Also keep a bowl of water or bird bath near the plants as bees need water as well.
Want to take it a step further? Plant a bigger garden, much bigger, ditch your whole grass patches to plant flowers. If you really want to go big, become a bee keeper. As the bees die the beekeeping industry is getting smaller. Starting your own small hive is important to helping pollination and helping the bee population growing.