PESTICIDES + COLONY COLLAPSE DISORDER
Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) is the phenomenon that occurs when the majority of worker bees in a honeybee colony disappear and leave behind their queen, plenty of food and a few nurse bees to care for the hive. CCD was first widely reported in the US around 2006. Since then, many factors have been attributed to the mass honeybee and pollinator die-offs. This includes everything from pesticides, parasites, mass disease, and poor nutrition. Scientists have stated that a combination of these factors, with exposure to pesticides—appear to be causing the CCD phenomenon. The pesticides affecting pollinators attack their central nervous systems, causing confusion and death.
Recent studies have found the environmental levels of the pesticides including neonicotinoid pesticides—surrounding farms, do not obliterate bee colonies outright, but instead kill them over extended periods of time. The pesticides also threaten honeybee queens in particular—which means colonies have lower reproductive rates.
Neonicotinoid pesticides dissolve in water, and easily make their way into waterways via agricultural runoff. Flowers miles away from farms can absorb the toxic chemicals—which seep into the stems, leaves, pollen and nectar. Studies found a combination of herbicides, fungicides and pesticides, including a handful of neonicotinoid chemicals were the leading cause of this collapse to bee colonies. To their surprise, neonicotinoids were mostly detected on pollen from plants other than corn—including willow trees, clovers and wildflowers—located near the crop fields.
Before, ecologists had thought bees were only exposed to the pesticides when near a treated, flowering crop, but researchers also found the pesticides stuck around throughout the growing season. People had previously assumed the bees’ vulnerability to the pesticide lasted only as long as the crop was in bloom.
Abstaining from pesticide use in the natural environment is crucial for pollinator survival. Beyond producing honey, honeybees are the prime pollinators of roughly one-third of the crop species in the U.S. This includes fruits, vegetables, nuts, coffee, chocolate and livestock feed such as alfalfa and clover. Massive loss of honeybees could result in billions of dollars in agricultural losses, as well as a massive disruption to our food chain.
WHAT ARE NEONICOTINOIDS?
Neonicotinoids are a broad-spectrum pesticide that get their name from their basic chemistry, because it is close to that of nicotine. The neonicotinoid family includes specific pesticides such as acetamaprid, imidacloprid, dinotefuran, clothianidin and thiamethoxam. They gained popularity in agricultural and commercial production because they are effective against a wide range of insect pests, and are considered less hazardous to humans and other vertebrates than many insecticides.
The most commonly used insecticides/pesticides in home gardens, farms, school yards, parks and urban landscapes—are a class of pesticides called neonicotinoids. These chemicals are used to kill sap-sucking and leaf-chewing insects. They are systemic, meaning they are absorbed by the plant tissues and expressed in all parts 24/7, including nectar and pollen. Bees, butterflies, and other flower-hopping insects/pollinators are harmed by the residues; even at low doses honey bees’ ability to navigate, fly and forage is majorly affected. They become confused and often can't make it back to their hives (CCD). What is extremely worrisome about pesticides in our culture, is the wide use of these chemicals in everyday gardening products. Home garden products containing neonicotinoids can legally be applied in far greater concentrations in gardens than they can be on farms. Sometimes these concentrations can be as much as 120 times as great than on farms—which increases the risk to pollinators.
Bees feed on a large variety of flowering plants within a mile of their colony home. The presence of a neonicotinoid in one plant will be dispersed when bees feed and forage on other untreated plants. These harmful pesticides are the leading cause of CCD, as they cause confusion and death to bees and other pollinators that come in contact with the chemicals.
NEONICOTINOIDS IN RETAIL
When purchasing chemicals to treat plants or to be used in the natural environment, don’t be misled by sales claims for many so-called “natural” products. Advertising which claims that any insecticide is “safe”, “pure”, “all-natural”, “EPA-approved”, “pesticide-free” and “chemical free” are at best misleading; and at worst, false and/or illegal.
To keep your lawn and garden happy, healthy, and teeming with life for pollinators, you should avoid the products that contain neonicotinoids.
Look for members of the neonicotinoid family on the labels and AVOID the following:
When purchasing flowering plants, opt for buying from local nurseries that do NOT pretreat their plants with harmful pesticides that will kill off bee and pollinator communities. The best way for home gardeners to confirm whether the flowering plants they purchase at retail garden centers or big box stores have been treated with neonicotinoids, is to ask the staff or look at the plant labels.
Beyond Pesticides put together a very important list of 68 common home and garden products that contain neonicotoids and should be avoided. Help save the bees by not using chemicals meant to kill insects in your garden!
Spread the word about the negative results of pesticides. Warn others to abstain from chemical and pesticide usage. Also encourage others to shop small and locally when purchasing any and ALL flowering plants—and be sure that your plants have not been treated with ANY pesticides or neonicotinoids. Home Depot, Lowes, Costco, Walmart, Kmart, Ace Hardware, True Value and most other large corporate companies treat all of their plants with harmful neonicotinoids and pesticides. Many of these corporate companies including Home Depot (one of the large retail chains that controls a monumental share of the flower and nursery market), often mislead shoppers stating flowers are "bee friendly" when that simply is not the truth. Most of these plants have been pretreated with toxic chemicals and/or pesticides. Review your labels, any chemicals listed that sound suspicious typically are. Our advice is to shop small at local nurseries, and simply ask to confirm that the plants you purchase are not pretreated with chemicals. We cannot stress this enough friends!
Pesticides are among the number one cause of bee decimation across the natural environment. We must save our environment and thus the bees by abstaining from all harmful chemical and pesticide usage. There are countless natural alternatives, and mass loss should never be an acceptable outcome for ones careless decisions.
WHAT’S WRONG WITH THE MOST POPULAR INSECTICIDES?
The scary truth behind what may be sitting in your garage…
Roundup (glyphosate) and AAtrex (atrazine) are the most popular pesticides for home use. Glyphosate is an extremely powerful chemical that is shown to cause human genetic damage. A French study recently found threats to human sex hormones and placental cells, as well as increased miscarriages. It also may cause blurred vision, nausea, headaches, dizziness and other reactions. Other studies connected the pesticide to a large tadpole die-off. It has also caused hormonal imbalances in lab animals and may have other biological side effects—let alone what is does to bees and other pollinators… Roundup and AAtrex are both extremely popular by home gardeners, but a leading cause of CCD in pollinators. We need to cease use of these chemicals and educate our neighbors and communities on these lethal pesticides. If not for the pollinators, then for our food chain.
WHAT ARE THE ALTERNATIVES?
There are many natural repellents that do not kill the bugs, but will help keep them away from your garden. Instead of loading up the yard with toxic insect killers, consider the wide variety of alternatives including dish soap, marigolds, citrus, aluminum foil and non-toxic chemicals.
Learn more about natural alternatives to pesticides here.