A recent scientific study has found that a majority of the world’s bees have been contaminated with neonicotinoid pesticides.
The study — which can be found here has raised concerns about global pesticide use and its effects on our environment. Five types of neonicotinoid were tested for:
Approximately 75% of the honey samples in the study tested positive for at least one of these chemicals, igniting a debate around the use of neonicotinoids.
What is Neonicotinoid?
Neonicotinoids are an insecticide derived from nicotine and are widely used around the world. They were originally thought to have less of an impact on the environment, but have recently come under scrutiny due to their effect on bees.
Various studies found that the chemical disrupts honeybee behaviors. Exposure can result in a decrease in hive cleansing behavior (bees remove their sick and dead to prevent disease from spreading) and can cause a decline in reproductive success.
Bees exposed to neonicotinoid were more likely to lose their queen and less likely to select a new one, leading to the previously mentioned reproductive failures.
PBS has documented a number of studies that can give more exact information on pesticide effects. You can find that article here.
The pesticide is different from other bug killing chemicals in that it has the ability to slowly kill off hives. The pesticide does not immediately kill off bees, but instead slowly disrupts hive behavior to cause a slow die off.
In addition, only small amounts of the chemical are needed to be present to cause negative effects in bees. Neonicotinoid can dissolve in water, allowing it to easily spread through agricultural runoff that is then absorbed by flowers.
It should also be noted that the pesticide levels in honey were not high enough to cause health issues for humans, and were below the maximum authorized level.
However, the effect on bees is a cause of much concern.
Bees are not only an essential part of human society, but also the world ecology. They are responsible for a large fraction of pollination across the world, which is why so much work has gone into bee conservation efforts.
Without bees, pollination of crops becomes far more expensive, raising the price of food. Bee die offs have already caused cost increases for farmers. Die offs can also affect beef and dairy industries by raising the pollination costs of crops used to feed cattle.
These factors all lead to price increases on consumers at the grocery store.Some countries have already begun to take action to address the concern around neonicotinoids.
France passed a law in 2016 that will eventually ban neonicotinoids by 2018, and other countries are currently undergoing examinations of pesticide impacts on honeybees.
On a local level, people can help honeybee preservation efforts by:
- Writing to government representatives
- Buy local honey
- Planting bee-friendly plants
- Or even building a beehive
Should honey bees go extinct, the fallout on the world economy and ecology would be massive. This latest study has brought much needed awareness to a potentially catastrophic issue, and experts are all asking the question: what now?
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