Voice of the Land
Bees. Now you see them…
Try to get your arms around this word: Neonicotinoids.
That may be what is causing all the worldwide buzz about disappearing bees. Neonicotinoids are a new generation of pesticides being used widely on corn and other food crops. Basically, according to an article in the March/April, 2015 issue of “Sierra” (“Buzz Kill, As corn yields rise, bees are dying worldwide”, by Patrick J. Kiger), they are a synthetic form of nicotine that attacks the receptors in insect nervous systems. They have been hailed, by the pesticide manufacturers, as effective among many types of insects and pests, and less expensive lending their use to smaller doses. Farmers are supposed to benefit, but do they, really?
Their use has become widespread since the mid-2000’s, particularly with corn seed. But, beekeepers worldwide have had problems, seeing great losses in their hives, and resulting smaller hives with less production of honey. And, since many beekeepers make a substantial portion of their income by renting out their hives for annual pollination of food crops, those operations have been curtailed.
In Europe, concern over hive losses grew so substantial that the European Union banned the use of neonicotinoids until further research could be done on the effect on bees. But, the United States has moved more slowly, allowing their use until lengthy reviews are done.
It’s a classic case of Big Pharma, the pesticide manufacturers, versus farmers and gardeners everywhere. Food crops, flowers, and plants of all kinds, of course, rely on pollination by, not just bees, but birds and butterflies as well. With disrupted nervous and navigation systems, all of the pollinators are less effective, or just dying off. The science, though, seems to be gaining ground with studies supporting the relationship of the pesticides to the die-offs. Anecdotally, many hive owners have moved far from the corn fields and seen re-growth of their hives. And, many have discontinued renting out their hives for pollination for fear of contamination from treated crops or seeds.
Your landscape experts at Art of the Land can give you good advice for which type of pest controls you can use safely in your yards. And, Denver does have a beekeeping store if you are interested in getting into your own backyard bee biz. Find out more at denverurbanhomesteading.com.
Be sure, also, when purchasing your plants or seed, to ask your nursery or store if the plants or seeds have been treated with neonicotinoids. They need to know, and the bees will be happy.
Neonicotinoid pesticide use is up. Honey production is down. Food crops could be in danger. Prices and availability of food are at risk. And, that is not a sweet story at all.