How Consumers Can Help the Bees: Dr. Harlan Sparer shows how harmful chemicals are impacting bee population and hive collapse.
Jun 28, 2015 11:33AM
● By Dr. Harlan Sparer
Insects are pests and companies make lots of money exterminating them. Some agricultural and chemical companies have come to the rescue to increase crop yields by providing neonicotinoid seed coatings to seeds in order to kill pests that also eat food. There is an extremely dangerous side effect to this. It can kill bees.
Here’s how it works. There is a nerve transmitter in the central nervous system in insects called acetylcholine. All receptors in the insect sensitive to this stop functioning normally after a delayed reaction with a small dose. In bees, this leads to confusion in direction finding the hive and in decreased and incompetent grooming. The neonicotinoids cause them to become infected by bacteria or eaten by mites. This only happens after several days, allowing the insecticide to be carried back to the hive and spread to all of the other individuals in the hive. This phenomenon is known as colony collapse disorder. Hundreds of billions of bees have died from neonicotinoid poisoning. The U.S. Department of Agriculture noted a shocking 42 percent loss of domesticated honeybees last year.
Neonicotinoids are affecting another pollinator, the monarch butterfly. Their direction-finding sense is altered, preventing them from migrating and reproducing. Other beneficial and neutral insects are also affected.
Neonicotinoids are now found on virtually every plant as a seed coating in commercially grown flowers, vegetables and fruits. These neonicotinoid “enhanced” vegetables and flowers are unwittingly purchased for personal use in big box stores and nurseries by consumers.
We need to stop buying these ubiquitous products and switch to organic seeds, seedlings and plants to insure that we are not part of this mass killing of our vital pollinators. We are part of the problem if we are planting these seeds or eating food that is grown from these seeds. While they apparently cause no direct danger to people, the indirect danger is alarming and appalling. One-third of our food is pollinated by bees, and losing them would mean the loss of some of our favorite fruits and vegetables.
Many people, organizations and government entities use neonicotinoids in the U.S., even though they are banned in many countries. Be on the lookout for the following substances as ingredients: Acetamiprid, Clothianidin, Dinotefuran, Imidacloprid, Nitenpyram, Thiocloprid and Thiamethoxam.
Charles Pellegrino wrote a prescient fiction novel in 1998 titled Dust, in which he explored what would happen if all those “insect pests” died. The results would be catastrophic. In short, insects are vital to our food supply as intermediaries, pollinators and food for other life forms. Without them, the ecological balance would be tilted radically out of balance, causing unforeseen damage where it is unsuspected.
Personally, we can remove our support for these substances by not consuming them. The more people are aware of this issue, the more likely it is we can continue to enjoy the benefits of pollinators like bees, even if it interferes with big business.