Bees are essential to our food system. They’re responsible for one in three bites of food we eat from apples to avocadoes to almonds. Without them our plates would look pretty bleak and the health of our environment would suffer. With roughly 80 percent of all flowering plants on Earth reliant on pollinators to reproduce, if we lose bees we will likely lose a host of other important species.
Unfortunately, bees are in great peril and populations are dwindling worldwide. This past year beekeepers lost nearly half of their hives — the second highest loss recorded to date.
Pests, diseases and changing climate have all been identified as contributing factors to bee declines. However, a growing body of scientific evidence points to a class of neurotoxic pesticides related to chemicals produced by tobacco plants called neonicotinoids (neonics), as a key factor in their decline.
Neonics are the most widely used insecticides in the world, both in agriculture and around the home. They are toxic to bees, long-lived (lasting for months to years in the environment) and systemic — meaning they move through the plant, including in pollen and nectar consumed by bees, butterflies and other important pollinators. These insecticides have been implicated in widespread negative impacts on a host of other important species, from earthworms, soil microbes and aquatic insects to birds and small mammals.
The widespread use of neonicotinoid pesticides may be lurking in our own backyards. As the Friends of the Earth report Gardeners Beware 2014 found, 51 percent of “bee-friendly” garden plants purchased at Home Depot, Lowe’s and Walmart in 18 cities across the United States and Canada contain neonicotinoid pesticides at levels that have the potential to harm or even kill bees. Tragically, our gardens may be poisoning the very creatures we’re trying to protect.
Due to mounting evidence, growing consumer demand, and successful campaigns by Friends of the Earth and allies, a growing number of businesses, universities, cities, states and federal agencies are taking steps to minimize, and in some cases eliminate the use of bee-harming pesticides because reducing the use of these pesticides will help bees. This list includes the two largest home improvement retailers, Home Depot and Lowe’s, along with Whole Foods and BJ’s Wholesale Club.
Bees are canaries in the coal mine, warning us that their decline is an indication of what is happening to our broader ecosystem. Their decline will not only impact our entire food system, but the delicate ecosystems on which our world depends. The bees need your help.
Join us for this workshops to learn about what you can do to help the pollinators!