We Are Killing Bees

Do you know that the grub-killing pesticide you put on your lawn and the flea control you put on your pet likely contains imidacloprid, a pesticide implicated in honeybee-killing Colony Collapse Disorder? And, if you purchase non-organic coffee, citrus, grapes and other fruits, potatoes and other vegetables, rice or use any sugarcane products you are probably buying an imidacloprid-treated crop?

Imidacloprid, by Bayer, is an ingredient in over 400 products in the U.S., according to the National Pesticide Information Center. Bayer reports it is used on sucking and biting insects such as aphids as well as fruit flies, grubs, termites, white flies and many beetles.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABees are exposed to imidacloprid through the pollen and nectar they collect from treated crops. Honeybees are also exposed to imidacloprid through the high-fructose corn syrup they are fed by beekeepers, notes Alex Lu, associate professor of environmental exposure biology in the Department of Environmental Health at Harvard School of Public Health.  Most U.S.-grown corn is treated with imidacloprid so the insecticide is in corn syrup, Lu explains in this Science Daily report.

Lu and colleagues studied the role imidacloprid might play Colony Collapse Disorder. They monitored four different bee yards, each with four hives – three exposed to different levels of imidacloprid plus one no-exposure control. After 23 weeks of observation, 94 percent of the hives exposed to imidacloprid had died. Those exposed to the highest imidacloprid levels died first.

Strikingly, said Lu, it took only low levels of imidacloprid to cause hive collapse — less than what is typically used in crops or in areas where bees forage.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Related studies, conducted in the United Kingdom and France, also implicated imidacloprid exposure in the decline of honeybee and bumblebee populations. Both suggest that levels of the nerve-effecting neonicotinoid type of pesticide imidacloprid, similar to those reached with common crop applications, impair bees ability to gain weight, their sense of direction, and ability to produce queens.

“Bumblebees pollinate many of our crops and wild flowers … The use of neonicotinoid pesticides on flowering crops clearly poses a threat to their health, and urgently needs to be re-evaluated.”

There are many neonicotinoid pesticides – too many to address in one post – so let’s focus on imidacloprid, the active ingredient in Bayer’s Merit and Season Long Grub Control products.

Imidacloprid  may remain in the soil for more than a year. It easily moves through soil via water, causing a run-off problem. The pesticide will not remain where you put it, it ends up where ever water takes it. It is taken up by blooming plants … exactly where bees head for pollen and nectar. It is toxic to bees, earthworms, fish, and other aquatic life.

Just look at the label for one imidacloprid product, Merit, approved for use on turf grass, landscape ornamentals, fruit and nut trees, and interior plants. The caution statement for humans is scary enough. The Environmental Hazards statement then lists Merit as highly toxic to aquatic invertebrates and highly toxic to bees exposed directly or from residues on blooming plants. It also cautions that Merit – in essence imidacloprid – is not to be used in areas where soil is permeable to water.

Think about this …  All lawns and gardens are in soils permeable to water.  To me, this little fact negates the use of imidacloprid on any lawn or garden.

Lawn and garden owners must take the initiative to be informed. Question all lawn and garden care sales pitches in television, newspaper and magazine ads, and through direct mail. READ ALL LABELS. Know what is in a product before using it. Most importantly, acknowledge that each action you take in your lawn and garden is important. What you add to your soil affects insects and birds and toads and small mammals and continues to affect all creatures along the food chain – all the way to humans.

This TED talk, http://www.ted.com/talks/dennis_vanengelsdorp_a_plea_for_bees.html provides an entertaining and informative explanation of the importance of bees. It’s worth the time to watch. You may begin to look at bees with a bit more respect, and understand that bees do not exist to annoy us … they actually help feed us.

Garden thoughtfully …

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2012 Joene Hendry

6 comments for “We Are Killing Bees

  1. April 14, 2012 at 12:15 pm

    Joene, the general public buys these products by the trunkful! I am sure the big box stores are making a lot of money on this beautiful April day! An unsuspecting consumer thinks that if it is available at a local store, it is safe to use in your yard. This is where the change will have to happen–at the consumer level. The EPA has no plan to ban this anytime soon and that is so sad. Thank you for writing about this. I post (and talk daily at work to anyone who is interested) often about the dangers of synthetic lawn care and have had people tell me they had no idea what they were doing to their families by using these toxic products.

    • April 14, 2012 at 12:23 pm

      Thank you, Diane, for the time you take educating consumers on your end. We are of the same mind-set. Education is the key … knowledge is power. I’m going to share your comment here on FB. We need to reach as many lawn and garden owners as possible.

  2. April 14, 2012 at 1:04 pm

    Joene, my brother just sent me this note from Illinois. 🙁

    “i went to the big orange store to visit my friend. she’s a cashier in the garden area. they were giving big bags of lawn treatment chemicals to EVERYBODY purchasing plants, for free. everybody that passed through happily accepted their free gift. i wish i could have brought you, just to see the look on your face.”

    I am sad. I really, really feel people have no idea.

    • April 14, 2012 at 5:45 pm

      Diane, those consumers are clueless and I am almost speechless.

  3. April 21, 2012 at 10:29 pm

    I’m always appreciative of the care and research that goes into your reporting of garden science news. Although I don’t use any of these products, I will be more careful about boycotting non-organic products that might have been grown using this. Thanks, as always, for your contributions to my education.

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