April 17, 2017
It’s no longer a secret that pesticides and toxic chemicals are damaging to our planet's ecosystem, but many are still unaware of the immediate effects to our agricultural infrastructure.
North America has begun the process of limiting or banning systemic pesticides that has been identified as detrimental to the survival of pollinator groups, such as the Western Honey Bee, however the public is not fully aware of the existing problems scope.
First, it is important to understand what chemicals are being targeted by environmental protective agencies for prohibition.
Neonicotinoids, or “neonics”, are neuro-active insecticides that are sprayed over seeds to repel and extinguish soil, seed, timber and foliar pests. While only a small amount of these neonics prove lethal to most insects, the agrichemical is often sprayed over a wide area or directly applied to seeds before planting, allowing it to drift across a region or seep into the ground.
A recently published report from the Center For Food Safety (CFS) includes a meta-analysis of studies from the past two years that suggest a strong positive correlation between neonics and harm towards honey bee populations in areas surrounding cotton, sunflowers, and (primarily) soybeans in the United States. As such, the CFS recommends in their report that the Environmental Protection Agency impose a moratorium on neonic use due to this overwhelming evidence of existential trauma to pollinator species.
There are many consequences on bee health relating to neonics, not all of them immediate or even fatal. While acute pesticide poisoning can occur and is problematic for beekeepers and the local ecology, the past decade has seen an increase in “missing bees”, now known as Colony Collapse Disorder.
Unexplained losses of whole populations of honey bees across North America sparked international interest leading to scientific studies tracing neonic usage to the disappearance of bees from whole regions. While the majority of the colony may not die, Colony Collapse Disorder induces worker bee populations to abandon the hive, which unable to sustain itself leads to its extinction.
Now that the reasoning for these collapses and beekill incidents is known, institutions such as the United States Department of Agriculture have started to enact meaningful policies and impose preventive measures combating the loss of habitat, while Canada has introduced legislation to reduce the use of neonic-treated seeds.
While there is a lot left to do to reverse the damage already done and bring ecologically unfriendly pesticide use to a close, there are ways for individuals to help. Honey Nut Cheerios has recently started a campaign that delivers wildflower seeds to enrich local floral communities and the David Suzuki Foundation is hosting an automated messaging petition to encourage Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency to ban the use of imidacloprid, one of the most widely used neonicotinoids in the world. You can access the petition here.
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