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The buzz on bees

Insecticides killing the buzzing bees

May 22, 2018

 

Insecticides have been a major part of the agricultural world for decades, for the use of controlling the population of insects that feed off of seasonal harvests.

Although society has come to rely on these insecticides, they have proven to be harmful to a key insect in the ecosystem: bees. One third of the food that consumed each day relies on pollination mainly by bees (www.sustainweb.org). The chemicals within the insecticides target the nervous system and damage nerve cells of the insects that consume the plant. The bee population within the past few years has been seriously fluctuating. In 2016, seven species of bees were labeled as endangered. Although the populations have been making a comeback in recent years, the use of insecticides are making it harder than ever for a quick recovery. In order to maintain a safe number of the population, 28 member states of the European Union recently voted and banned neonicotinoid products that have proved to be harmful to bees.

Neonicotinoids are a newer type of insecticide that is closely related to nicotine. It is now being added to the soil around crops allowing the chemicals to be taken up into the body of the plant, rather than just being sprayed on the outside leaves. Not only do these chemicals harm the well-being of bees, they also have been linked to the decline of other animals including species of insect eating birds and mammals, and other pollinating insects.

The new law will build off of a previous ban that limited such use that was set in place in 2013. It banned the use of clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam, three specific types of neonicotinoids on flowering crops that would attract bees. Farmers are still allowed to use these insecticides indoors in greenhouses, where bees will not be affected. This ban is set to take place by the end of 2018. With the decrease of insecticides, there is hope for the increase of bees.

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