What Neonicotinoids Means for Farmers and Food Production

by Chi-Chi Anemelu

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Bees are one of the most amazing and essential creatures on this planet. Not only do they help produce some of the foods we eat every day, but they also help beautify the Earth by helping pollinate millions of flowers. Sadly, news has been surfacing for a while that neonicotinoid pesticides, which are commonly used on farms, have been found to kill bees in large amounts. According to pbs.org, “studies have shown that these pesticides harm and eventually kill the bees over an extended period of time. The pesticides also threaten bee queens in particular, which means colonies would have lower reproductive rates.” When seeds are treated with neonicotinoids, the chemicals work their way into the pollen and nectar which makes the plants toxic to the bees. There was a story published in 2013 in CBC news about a farmer named Dave Schuit, who claimed neonics killed millions of his honeybees and millions of others in Ontario, Canada. We rely on bees to pollinate 71 of the 100 crops that provide 90 percent of the world’s food, and also 80% of flowering plants on this Earth. Honeybees are essential, because they pollinate approximately $15 billion worth of crops every year.  They pollinate crops such as broccoli, asparagus, cantaloupes, cucumbers, pumpkins, blueberries, watermelons, almonds, apples, cranberries, and cherries.

 

How Pollination Works

Pollination occurs when pollen is moved from the male part of the plant, the stamen, to the female part of the plant, the stigma. Seeds are produced only when pollen is transferred between flowers of the same species. Once the pollen is deposited on the stigma, a pollen tube is formed where the male cells from the pollen grain are transported to the ovules at the base of the pistil.  Complete fertilization of the plant results in the growth of seeds and fruit. Pollination is often times unintentional; the animal is found eating, collecting pollen, or sipping the sweet nectar from the flower when pollen grains attach to their bodies. When the animal travels to a new flower, the pollen on its body can transfer to the flower which could result in successful reproduction of the flower. 

 

How to Protect Our Bees and Food Sources

It’s important that we protect the bees, because without bees our food sources would not be as abundant. A ban on neonicotinoids was recently approved by the European Union in April, and will be in effect by the end of this year. They have set a great example which the US could follow. If enough states ban together, we can limit our use of insecticides to more than 50 percent. This will send a strong message to large chemical companies and the federal government that we refuse to not only let our food, but also our public spaces such as parks to be sprayed with these toxins. We also can’t forget the importance of supporting our organic farms. They provide us with wholesome and more nutritious produce options.

 

Information on Ways to Support the Bee Population

https://www.mnn.com/your-home/organic-farming-gardening/stories/how-build-hotel-wild-bees

https://www.xerces.org/wp-content/uploads/2008/11/farming_for_bees_guidelines_xerces_society.pdf

https://www.usda.gov/media/blog/2015/09/8/new-guide-helps-citizens-customize-their-gardens-native-bees

 

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