You don’t need to be reminded about just how important bees are to our world. They are primary pollinators of many of the foods we eat day to day, including almonds, watermelon and oranges, pollinators of 90% of the world’s wild plants, and they contribute to the €265bn economic benefit of pollination.
It’s safe to say life would be pretty different without bees, and our world wouldn’t be as amazing as it is.
But they’re in danger. You may have heard that bees are in decline, with over 40 percent of U.S honeybee hives dying off each year, which is costing the farming and beekeeping industry more than €2bn a year.
There are a few reasons why bee numbers are falling – destruction of habitat, increase in disease, etc – but one of the major reasons is a type of pesticide called neonicotinoids, or neonics for short.
What are neonics?
Neonics are a group of systemic pesticides, meaning they’re absorbed by all parts of the plant, including pollen and nectar collected by bees. They’re used in soil drench, seed coating and sprayed onto crop foliage to deter pests, and they’re pretty good at doing it. However, they’re also very harmful to bees.
How do neonics harm bees?
When neonics get into bees’ systems they affect several parts of their body and behavior. The pesticides hinder their foraging behavior, and have a detrimental effect on homing ability, memory, breeding, communication, and their immune system, more often than not leading to paralysis and death.
Some will tell you that there is not enough research to conclusively prove that neonics are responsible for bee deaths, but the evidence is mounting quite considerably, and it’s largely accepted that neonics are certainly not health for our bees.
What’s more, it’s estimated that only around 5% of the chemicals go into the crops, with 94% ending up in soil and water, and 1% released into the air.
Should neonics be banned?
Well, yes they should, but it really depends on who you talk to. Funnily enough, many pharmaceutical companies are against a blanket ban, whereas environmental campaigners would like to see them banned completely.
Several types of neonics are already banned in many countries, but there are still lots of places around the world that have no restrictions in place whatsoever over which chemicals are used to treat crops.
Over in Europe, the European Commission apparently plans to put further restrictions in place, proving that this is still an issue very much in flux.
Want more information about neonics? Take a look at the infographic below from UK company Sun Leisure which explains what neonics are, the impact they have, and possible alternatives in an easy to digest format.