Neonicotinoid pesticides have shown to be harmful to wild bees and bumblebees, as well as possibly addictive.
According to recent studies published in Nature, we have found that bees may be exposed to harmful levels of pesticides because they are attracted to the chemicals. It has been shown that neonicotinoids, nicotine like chemicals in many pesticides, react with the bees brain much like nicotine in cigarettes do in the human brain.
Unfortunately, in addition to giving bees a ‘little buzz,’ neonicotinoids have also been shown to be pretty harmful to wild bee populations and bumblebees, with honey bees remaining relatively uneffected. For the affected bee populations, it has been observed that in areas where chemical is used, there is a decline in bee population density as the bees’s ability to grow and reproduce is diminished.
Neonicotinoids are used for seed dressing to help protect young plants from insects, such as flea beetles. It’s also the most widely used insecticide in the United States, according to this Science World Report. Since bees are so important for pollination, it is hopeful that these new studies will bring about new ways of evaluating risk of damaging bee populations in conjunction with certain pesticide use.
With the decline in bee population in the US and Europe the past couple years, this info is even more prevalent. It is more important than ever to make sure we maintain bee populations and limit their decline. In 2013, the EU imposed a two-year ban on using three neonicotinoid pesticides on flowering crops amid concern about their effects on bees.
Prof Simon Potts of the University of Reading said the research suggests an interim ban on the use of neonicotinoids but that leaves regulators with a “huge conundrum”.
“A return to old-fashioned products sprayed against pests could be disastrous for pollinators, but the other options available to European agriculture, such as natural pest management, would lead to lower yields in the short term and a big increase in food prices.”
As research continues, the hope is that we find a way to sufficiently and effectively protect our crops while mitigating any effect on bee populations.