Last June, 2500 bumblebees died in a parking lot at a Target store in Oregon after a neonictinoid called dinotefuran was sprayed on nearby trees. In Ontario, it was corn fields planted with seeds coated with the stuff that was responsible for killing 37 MILLION honey bees.
Neonicotinoids, more commonly called neonics, are now the most commonly used insecticide in the world. This, after only after about 13 years on the market. Because they were tested as safe for humans and mammals, everybody started putting them in their products. They are listed on the containers as “user friendly,” nothing is said about their affect on bees. After all, it is supposed to kill insects, right?
Neonics are systemic killers. The plants, or treated seeds, absorb the chemical into their tissue. It gets into the plants’ stems, blooms, pollen roots, and even surrounding soil. This makes for a very effective insecticide, killing all insects that feed on a plant, or even land on a pollen laden bloom.
Not only is it used on most of the corn grown in the in country, it’s commonly used in the nursery and landscape trade. It is mixed in the soil of bedding plants. Research has discovered that the neonic load is much higher in bedding plants than in corn.
The Xerces Society , a nonprofit dedicated to protecting wildlife, has published a detailed summary of the research on the effect of neonics on bees. Look it up on www.XERCES.org
This is what they have discovered; Neonics in pollen and nectar can reach lethal concentrations. They can persist in soil for years after a single application. Plants can absorb residues left in the soil from last years’ plant. Products approved for the homeowner have application rates up to 120 times higher than rates for corn and other agricultural crops. They don’t directly relate colony collapse to neodics, but their research suggests that they make honey bees more susceptible to parasites and pathogens. The chemical affects the nervous system of the insect. If they don’t outright kill the bee, they stun them to the point that they are unable to function properly and find their way back to the hive.
No gardener wants to kill either bees or other beneficial insects, so what are we to do? First of all, inspect any chemicals you may have to see if it has neonics in the mix. If it does, dispose of it in the hazardous waste. Instead, use insecticidal soap, B.T., or garlic and pepper sprays. Second, ask your nursery if their plants are organically grown. And third, grow your own.
It is up to us to protect our bees. After all, two thirds of the world’s crops depend on bees for pollination, and there are reports that from 30 to 90 percent of bee populations in some areas are dead.
If you like to eat, preserve your bees. Don’t use neonics.