It is a harrowing fact that Earth’s honey bee population is decreasing at an unsustainable rate. Some day in the near future, they may be no bees left at all.
That could have disastrous consequences for us humans. much of our natural ecosystem depends on the processes involved with bee pollination, and if this pollination cannot happen, many of our crops — from broccoli to strawberries — could also start to disappear.
Much of the population decline is the result of human actions, including the use of neonicotinoids, insecticides chemically related to nicotine that cause honeybees, bumblebees, and beneficial ladybugs to literally drop dead. According to Agriculture.com, though these activities can be regulated to help bees reestablish their colonies, it may no longer be possible to reverse the damage already caused by massive die-offs.
Neonicotinoids are applied as seed treatments, reports a study in Nature, after which they occur in trace levels in the nectar and pollen of crops and plants where they may be consumed or brought back to the colonies of social bees. These chemicals dissolve in water and are long-lasting in the environment, reports a study in PLOS ONE, leading them to build up surprisingly high concentrations in the pollen and nectar of wildflowers near treated crops.
Neonicotinoid pesticides affect both bumblebee colony growth and foraging efficiency, Science reports. These toxins are linked to impairment of the bees’ learning and memory. Neonicotinoids also interfere with the honeybees’ antennal lobe functionality, making it hard for honeybees to perceive differences in odor.
The threat is not reduced with the changes in season, either. Over the winter, as When the insects lay dormant to conserve energy, neocontinoids are actually a greater threat to honeybees,m reports a study in Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution.
Acknowledging the serious threat that neonicotinoids present to honeybees, the EPA released its own proposed interim decisions for the use of these chemicals, recommending:
- Management measures to help keep pesticides on the intended target and reduce the amount used on crops associated with potential ecological risks;
- Requiring the use of additional personal protective equipment to address potential occupational risks;
- Restrictions on when pesticides can be applied to blooming crops in order to limit exposure to bees;
We can afford insects eating our plant life; but we simply cannot afford a decimation of the honey bee. Click and demand that the EPA outlaw these immensely harmful pesticides.
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