For over the last decade, beekeepers and scientists have been documenting the decline of important pollinators such as honeybees. This decline poses a huge threat to the food supply, because without pollinators some crops wouldn’t exist, while others would suffer in crop output and quality. Losing the bees would be an indicator that we are next to go.
The American Beekeeping Federation offers some insight:
As honey bees gather pollen and nectar for their survival, they pollinate crops such as apples, cranberries, melons and broccoli. Some crops, including blueberries and cherries, are 90-percent dependent on honey bee pollination; one crop, almonds, depends entirely on the honey bee for pollination at bloom time.
For many others, crop yield and quality would be greatly reduced without honey bee pollination. In fact, a 1999 Cornell University study documented that the contribution made by managed honey bees hired by U.S. crop growers to pollinate crops amounted to just over $14.6 billion.
Now, two new studies reiterate that the overuse of neonicotinoid pesticides – neonics, for short – may be contributing to bee colony collapse.
Prevalence of Neonic-treated Seeds
Because neonicotinoid pesticides are water soluble and are absorbed into the plant as it grows, they affect both pests and beneficial insects, such as bees. As the plants grows, residues of neonics make their way into nectar and pollen, thus posing a risk to the bees. Neonics are derived from nicotine and act as a poison to the nervous system to .
Study #1 – Bees Do Not Avoid Neonics
“This work shows that bees cannot control their exposure to neonicotinoids in foods and implies that treating flowering crops with [the common neonicotinoids] IMD and TMX presents a sizeable hazard to foraging bees.”
Study #2 – Insecticidal Use Poses Threat to Wild Bees
“Such insecticidal use can pose a substantial risk to wild bees in agricultural landscapes, and the contribution of pesticides to the global decline of wild bees may have been underestimated. The lack of a significant response in honeybee colonies suggests that reported pesticide effects on honeybees cannot always be extrapolated to wild bees.”
Lack of Benefit for Farmers
“This analysis provides evidence that U.S. soybean growers derive limited to no benefit from neonicotinoid seed treatments in most instances. Published data indicate that most usage of neonicotinoid seed treatments does not protect soybean yield any better than doing no pest control. Given that much of the reported seed treatment usage in the U.S. on soybeans is not associated with a target pest, BEAD [the Biological and Economic Analysis Division] concludes that much of the observed use is preventative and may not be currently providing any actual pest management benefits.”
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