In order to preserve bees and restore balance in nature, France became the first EU country to ban five neonicotinoid pesticides linked to high rates of bee deaths. Pollinating insects such as bees are much more important than you think. Love mangos, apples, and avocados? Well, you can thank bees for all these fruits. They play a critical role in the environment – according to studies, over 85% of all plant species on Earth depend on pollination. A third of the food we eat comes from pollinated plants, so they’re important for food variety as well.
Although neonicotinoids are not the only factor responsible for CCD, it’s certainly a major one. Pollution, habitat loss, droughts, and global warming are all to blame, but pesticides are a factor we can control and eliminate.
What Are Neonicotinoids?
If you aren’t familiar with the term, you’re not alone. Neonicotinoids are insecticides with a similar chemical structure to nicotine. They act on receptors in the nerve synapses and are toxic for all insects. They’re also toxic to birds and mammals.
There are many different types of neonicotinoids including Thiacloprid, Thiamethoxam, Acetamiprid, Clothianidin, etc. In the beginning, it was thought that neonicotinoids are not that harmful to bees until the opposite was confirmed. Studies have found more than 150 chemical residues in bee pollen samples recently, including a range of neonicotinoids.
Companies such as Syngenta, Bayer (formerly Monsanto), Dow, and BASF, will never admit any wrongdoing. They won’t admit that their chemicals are responsible for the increasing number of bee deaths and are against changes in pesticide policy. Wondering why? Well, a quick glance at their profits should tell you all you need to know.
What is Colony Collapse Disorder?
The phenomenon that causes whole worker colonies of bees to disappear is scientifically known as CCD or Colony Collapse Disorder. The exact trigger behind CCD is still not known. The term was coined back in 2006. Since observing it, science has been unable to located the reason behind it. Many experts are hard at work to decipher the mystery, but all efforts have been unsuccessful so far.
For example, a research led by Dr. Alex Lu has proposed neonicotinoids as the main cause for CCD. The study examined the effects of imidacloprid and clothianidin on bee hives for two years and came to the conclusion that most of the treated colonies abandon their hives when exposed to the herbicide. As we mentioned earlier, there are many factors which can cause CCD, but herbicides are among the biggest and most dangerous.
Is There a Link Between Neonicotinoids and CCD?
According to Amro Zayed from the University of Toronto, all parts of plants are soaked in neonicotinoids. The chemicals will then transfer onto bees and other pollinating insects. This has been further confirmed by finding traces of neonicotinoids on dead bees and larvae as well as pollen and nectar.
Neonicotinoids were found on plants other than corn located near crop fields. Even worse, studies have found out that neonicotinoids can stick in the soil for years to come. They’re not just killing bees – they’re deadly to the environment as well.
In order to see what causes CCD, one study set up a lab away from a cornfield. The scientists exposed bees to clothianidin over a period of 12 weeks. The amount used was identical to the levels found near the corn farms. Even though these bees were exposed to lower levels of pesticides than the bees near the farm, the insects still experienced significant problems. Their defense mechanisms suffered greatly, and their chances of survival also went down. They basically suffered almost the same problems observed in bees near the cornfields before.
This confirms that neonicotinoids are deadly to bees. The team repeated the tests with fungicides and found that they make neonicotinoids even more potent. Fungicides on their own are not harmful to bees, but a combination of both pesticides is incredibly lethal to bees.
France Becomes the First EU Country to Act
After seeing the results of a number of studies that associated neonicotinoids with CCD, France decided to take action and ban five of the most common neonicotinoids used in the country. EU has already banned three of five (imidacloprid, thiamethoxam, clothianidin), but France decided to include the 2 “survivors” – acetamiprid and thiacloprid. Even better, France has banned the use of these pesticides in inside greenhouses and outdoor crops.
By doing this, France is hoping to preserve whole colonies of bees and bring back the balance in nature. If you ask us, everyone should follow their example.