The collapse of honey bee colonies is by now fairly well known by the public at large. And of course we all know that a large swath of our agricultural fruits are brought to us courtesy of our pollinating symbionts. What has not been well understood is the reason for this rash of colony collapses.
Well, I’m here to tell you that the answer turns out to be fairly straight-forward! As with Global Climate Change, there are certain corporate entities who have a vested financial interest in confusing the public. In this case, rather than the players being oil and coal companies, it turns out to be the closely related chemical companies led by Bayer and Syngenta as well as Dow and Sumitomo.
And here is the answer: Neonicotinoids (“neonics”). Neonics are a class of insecticides, chemically similar to nicotine, which were developed in the 1990’s by Bayer and introduced shortly thereafter. The best known of these, Imidacloprid, was launched in 1994 and now earns Bayer over a billion dollars per year. The demise of the honey bee correlates exactly with the introduction of these pesticides which in numerous studies have been shown to be extremely toxic to bees. As with Global Climate Change, the perpetrators of this disaster have sown the usual “we need more research on this issue”, “the causes are so complex” etc. Actually it is not very complex: neonics are extremely toxic to bees; they are water soluble and therefore systemic in the plant and do not break down quickly in the environment; millions and millions of pounds are being pumped into our environment each year.
The European Union has partially banned the 3 most prevalent such neonicotinoids for 2 years in an attempt to get a handle on the problem. Meanwhile in the United States, both the EPA and Department of Agriculture are resisting any efforts to restrict their use (what a surprise!). Since bees can travel up to several miles in search of food, they are easily exposed to profligate use of these pesticides. So here is what you can do to help:
✿Write to your congressman and Senators asking them to write a bill banning these pesticides. But since this is a quixotic request (given that the chemical and oil companies now own a majority of congress people) you can take personal action since many of these insecticides are common household products.
✿ Check any insecticides that you own, if they contain the word “SYSTEMIC” and/or have lovely Madison names such as “Gaucho” “Admire” “Merit” “Advantage” or “Winner” (you get the point!) you need to dispose of them. On the back check to see if the insecticides contain Imidacloprid, Clothianidin, Thiamethoxam, acetimiprid or other lesser known nicotinoids.
✿ Look for organic options such as nematodes, or products containing pyrethrins, neem oil or other natural oils such as rosemary & peppermint
✿ Buy only organic seeds. It turns out that 90% of seeds are now soaked in neonics, which means those so-called healthy garden plants that you are growing from seed my be full of these toxins!
✿ Check out the Xerxes Society website
✿ Alert and educate your neighbors to this unfolding disaster. When the public becomes involved, things will change!
I don’t know about you, but to me a world that exists solely on gruel, which is where we are heading, doesn’t sound very fun!
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