A Plea for Pollinators
Since the 2012–2013 season, Minnesota beekeepers have reported losing around 50% of their hives every year to neonicotinoid pesticides. Pollinators are essential to human survival. As their numbers continue to decline, neonicotinoids have been pegged as a major contributor to this problem. These pesticides need to be more tightly regulated if we want to preserve these important insects.
Currently, in Minnesota, you need a license and very limited training or education to spray neonics. You do not need a license to buy neonicotinoid-coated seeds, which is a huge issue for several reasons. The first issue is that they are systemic, meaning no matter how the pesticide is applied, it becomes part of the plant’s tissue and is passed on to its offspring. Neonics are incredibly lethal to pollinators, according to research done by many scientists worldwide, including the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, and our very own U of M Bee Lab. The pesticide will have the same effect as it would if it was sprayed on an older plant. This raises the number of mistreated plants, and the number of pollinators killed by neonics.
The second problem is that the pesticide left at the bottom of the bag is often dumped out and then windblown directly to pollinator habitats, or more commonly, into water systems, where it becomes detrimental to aquatic life as well. Though tightening these regulations might make pesticide use harder for farmers, not tightening them will ultimately lead to pollinator downfall, which puts farmers, and the food industry, out of business entirely. The drastic decrease in pollinator populations is one of the most important issues of today, and everyone who lives on Earth will ultimately be affected if nothing is done to stop it.
In our middle school Environmental Action Club (EAC) at the Friends School of Minnesota, we believe that neonicotinoids need to be strongly regulated. In the EAC, we decided to take action.
We created a video to educate others on the effects of neonicotinoids on pollinators. We interviewed many people from different backgrounds on their views of the use and regulation of neonicotinoids. Then, we compiled these interviews into a 20-minute video about the importance of pollinators and the regulation of neonicotinoids. Our video can serve as an education piece about how neonicotinoids work, their effects on pollinators, and what we can do to protect pollinators. We recently shared it with the national meeting of Quaker Earthcare Witness.
In short, almost nothing in our world is possible without plants. As plants depend on pollinators, we need pollinators for the very foundations of our lives. Neonicotinoids threaten to wipe pollinators off the map, and most plants with them. If beekeepers continue to lose 50% of their hives to neonics, soon there will not be very many bees left. A world without pollinators is barely a world at all, and we need to make sure that these amazing animals will be around for centuries to come.
Here is our video:
Hopwood, Jennifer, et al. How Neonicotinoids Can Kill Bees. 2nd ed., The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, 2016, How Neonicotinoids Can Kill Bees.
Staff, DNR. “DNR Pollinator Best Management Practices and Habitat Restoration Guidelines.” DNR PDF, 2014. Staff, Pesticide Action Network, and Lex Horan.
“MN Bee Fact Sheet.” MN Bee Fact Sheet PDF, Jan. 2017.