My daughter-in-law has been looking into purchasing honey bees. It got my husband thinking he would like to purchase some too. The problem is that the farm just south of our property sprays its crops with pesticides. A bee colony would have a minimal chance of survival in such close proximity. This isn’t a problem only for us. It’s a problem all across the United States. By itself, pesticide spraying isn’t the issue. The pesticides people use, called systemic neonicotinoids, is the problem.
Systemic neonicotinoids are water soluble and mobile, and can be applied in a variety of ways. An application may involve drenching the soil, injecting them directly into trees, and even applying them as a seed coating. A plant’s tissues absorb these particular pesticides, and spreads throughout the tissues. You can’t wash off pesticides. They become part of the plant, making them far more dangerous than other pesticides.
Since the introduction of systemic neonicotinoids, bee populations have declined 30% from 2007 – 2014. These pesticides play a major part in honey bee colony collapse disorder (CCD). In 2013 a study demonstrated that, “neonicotinoids disrupt bees’ immune systems, making them susceptible to viral infections to which the bees are normally resistant.” You may be asking yourself how this affects you as a consumer. If the decline of the honey bee populations continues it will affect the pollination of produce that you find in the grocery store, leading to a cost increase.
Local garden centers may also treat their plants with these same pesticides. For example, in a recent pilot study done by Friends of the Earth, plants were collected from nationally known garden centers like Home Depot and Lowe’s. The study concluded that neonicotinoid concentrations ranged from 11 to 1,500 micrograms per kilogram (11g/kg or parts per billion) of plant material in 54% of the nursery plants purchased. This is one of the biggest reasons to look for certified-organic plants when shopping for produce or landscaping plants.
Other countries have restricted, or banned outright, the use of neonicotinoids. U.S. representatives John Conyers (D-MI), and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) introduced the Save the Pollinators Act 2013 to the Subcommittee on Horticulture, Research, Biotechnology, and Foreign Agriculture on 8/13/2013 and it remains there still.
How can you, as a consumer, help?
Get involved and sign the petition to stop the use of systemic neonicotinoids in the U.S. Be aware of the plants and seeds you purchase to put in your garden; are they certified organic? Send letters asking companies to not sell plants coated with these pesticides. By taking a stand you’re not only helping the environment, you’re protecting our children’s’ future food sources. Bee proactive and take a stand.