This is just a wonderful time of year; biting into a juicy peach, or sprinkling sweet strawberries over ice cream, just a plethora of fruits and vegetables to enjoy. Have you ever stopped to think what would happen if all of our fruits and vegetables slowly started to disappear? Why? Because there would not be any more bees.
According to Margaret Badore, Science and Sustainable Agriculture, “Bees populations had been in decline before 1997, but in 2005 a steep drop-off began raising alarms among environmentalists and the agricultural workers who depend on honeybees to pollinate crops such as almond and fruit trees. This set off a “pollinator panic” that led to bees being imported to the U.S. from New Zealand for the first time in 50 years.”
Now you think we would have learned our lessons from all of the other times that we imported “animals” from other lands to fix a “problem” and the non-natives created bigger problems.
“When R.P. Macfarlane, a New Zealand bumble bee researcher…, surveyed bumble bee populations in northern Wisconsin in 1993, researchers reported that the yellow banded bumble bee constituted about 93 percent of the bumble bees tallied; today they make up less than one percent of the bumble bees in the region,” stated David L. Sperling of Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine.
Researchers agree that the reasons are unclear for bee decline and most likely are not one single factor, but a combination of several. Certainly, key components are habitat loss, habitat fragmentation, and the introduction of European bee diseases when foreign bees were brought into the country…(really!). However, one reason most researchers feel is top of the list is a group of pesticides known as neonicotinoids.
According to the Xerces society, founded for invertebrate conservation, these are especially dangerous to all bees and other pollinators for several reasons. “Bees are exposed to neonicotinoids in many ways, including contact with spray residue on plants or by eating contaminated and toxic pollen or nectar. Even when used according to printed instructions, garden products containing neonicotinoids can be applied to plants in concentrations dozens of times greater than on farm crops. This means that bees can be exposed to lethal doses of neonicotinoids in gardens. Even if bees are not killed outright, smaller (nonlethal) doses can impact their health.
When exposed to very small amounts of neonicotinoids, bumble bee colonies grow more slowly and produce fewer new queens, which impacts overall bumble bee populations. Honey bees are also affected by low doses; exposure can impair their ability to fly, navigate, and forage for food.
Neonicotinoids are systemic chemicals. They are absorbed by the plant
and dispersed through plant tissues, including pollen and nectar. Because they target nerve impulses in insects and other invertebrates, neonicotinoids are deemed “safe” since harm to humans and other mammals is minimal. However, neonicotinoids are toxic to bees and many other beneficial insects. These insecticides can linger in the soil for months or years, can be picked up by the next season’s plants; and remain active in flowers, shrubs, or trees for a year or more.
Page 2 of 2 - Best plan, stay away from pesticides altogether. Live with nature.
Lynn Youngblood is a KC-based naturalist.
who writes for Gatehouse Media.