Let them bee…

A couple of years ago, I wrote a blog entry on the demise of our bees after the introduction of neonicotinoids in the past decade. At the time, the EPA had essentially admitted that although they were going to continue allowing the use of these pesticides, they vowed to keep observing their effect on the bee populations. As I have enjoyed watching the bees feast on a flowering Cardoon these past few days, I thought I’d check in to see if, in the past two years, the EPA have gotten any closer to a final assessment and decision on these neuro-active insecticides. As it turns out, they have not.

The happy buzzing of bees on my flowering Cardoon. Seeing them makes me happy!

The happy buzzing of bumble bees on my flowering Cardoon. Seeing them makes me happy!

There are several pesticides in the neonicotinoid family. The most common are imidacloprids, clothianidin and thiamethoxam. As I write this, practically all corn grown in the American Midwest, and most of the soy bean seeds, are treated with one or the other of the latter two. Overall, neonicotinoids are less toxic to mammals than earlier  generations of pesticides, which is why they have become so popular. When first launched in the 1990’s, they were the first new class of pesticides introduced in 50 years. However, as the world is beginning to see, they are not quite so benevolent to our insects, birds, or aquatic invertebrates. Clothianidin is one of the most toxic substances known to honey bees. Recently an instance of massive bee death in nearby Wilsonville put that fact front and center on the news.

As always, the Europeans are ahead of the US in matters of environmental safekeeping. In April of this year (2013), the European Union voted to ban neonicotinoids for two years on flowering plants, to see if there would be a change in the rampant death of bees – for lack of a better name referred to as “Colony Collapse Disorder”. Previously France, Germany and Italy had already enacted a suspension of these products. The manufacturer of two of the most common of these toxins is Bayer, a German company, so I imagine that the German decision in particular has to sting. Good for the Germans to prioritize ecological health over monetary gains! 🙂

Positive developments are happening state-side too, I’m happy to report! As recent as March 2013, the American Bird Conservancy, citing this threat to our wildlife, called for a ban. The same month a group of beekeepers, conservationists and sustainable agriculture advocates sued the EPA, on the grounds that its toxicity evaluations are inadequate, and that they rely on studies performed by the chemical industry itself when registering the pesticides as “safe” to use. Then, just a couple of weeks ago on July 12, Oregon’s own Democratic Representative Earl Blumenauer introduced “The Save American Pollinators Act” to the US Congress. I like how you think, Earl! But, given the Congress we currently have, I’m not holding my breath. If it were to be signed into law, the US would follow the European Union in suspending the use of four neonicotinoids until their EPA registration review is complete – including the three that have already been banned in Europe. As the garden-obsessed daughter of a beekeeper, and a resident of Oregon, I will cross my fingers and hope for the best. And, most likely, I will send Earl Blumenauer a thank you note expressing my gratitude for his good work! These kinds of positive actions deserve to be encouraged – don’t you think?

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About annamadeit

I was born and raised in Sweden, By now, I have lived almost as long in the United States. The path I’ve taken has been long and varied, and has given me a philosophical approach to life. I may joke that I’m a sybarite, but the truth is, I find joy and luxury in life’s simple things as well. My outlook on life has roots in a culture rich in history and tradition, and I care a great deal about environmental stewardship. Aesthetically, while drawn to the visually clean, functional practicality and sustainable solutions that are the hallmarks of modern Scandinavia, I also have a deep appreciation for the raw, the weathered, and the worn - materials that tell a story. To me, contrast, counterpoint, and diversity are what makes life interesting and engaging. Color has always informed everything I do. I’m a functional tetrachromat, and a hopeless plantoholic. I was originally trained as an architect working mostly on interiors, but soon ventured outside - into garden design. It’s that contrast thing again… An interior adrift from its exterior, is like a yin without a yang. My firm conviction that everything is connected gets me in trouble time and time again. The world is a big place, and full of marvelous distractions, and offers plentiful opportunities for inquiry and exploration. I started writing to quell my constant queries, explore my discoveries, and nurture my curiosity. The Creative Flux was started in 2010, and became a catch-all for all kinds of intersecting interests. The start of Flutter & Hum at the end of 2013 marks my descent into plant nerd revelry. I occasionally contribute to other blogs, but those two are my main ones. For sure, topics are all over the map, but then again - so am I! Welcome to my blogs!
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13 Responses to Let them bee…

  1. Elvis says:

    I heard a fascinating and balanced lecture on neonics at a spring Master Gardener education session. It’s encouraging to hear there is movement toward banning or curtailing their use. So sad, though, that it seems to take issues like the recent Tigard bumble bee kill-off to focus the attention of regulatory bodies on the problem.

    • annamadeit says:

      You’re right… we are awfully slow to react over here. Do you really think it was the bee death thing that set off Blumenauer’s reaction? It could well be, I suppose, but if so, he acted fast. It took him less than a month to bring it to Congress. Even so, sad as it was, I think the parking lot event was great for awakening the public to the plight of bees.

  2. Ricki Grady says:

    Kudos to the internet for giving us a voice in these things, and to you for doing the research and spreading the word.

  3. Christina says:

    This is not about a few bees pollinaitng our garden flowers, a huge percentage of the world’s food supply comes from bee pollinated crops! The farmers of crops not dependant on bees have a responsibility to everyone else to STOP using these products rather than lobbying for their continued use. I live in Italy and see with my own eyes that even here there are less bees this year. All governments need to know the public support them if they take strong action on such an important issue. Thank. you for bring the issue into the open

    • annamadeit says:

      Couldn’t agree more, Christina! Sorry to hear bees are declining in Italy… In my first bee blog entry from two years ago, I wrote that the loss of hives subsided in 2009, after the neonics were banned. Are you telling me this has this changed? Somehow I thought we over here should look to the Europeans for guidance… Sadly, the US is always more likely to buckle under corporate pressure than other countries….

      • Christina says:

        It is maybe only my impression that there are less bees this year. The cool wet spring meant there weren’t so many in the garden. But now the lavender and Perovskia are in full flower there are more. I do think the law has made a difference here. Helped by the fact that many crops here need pollinators.

      • annamadeit says:

        Oh good! My father who is a beekeeper in Sweden complained about the long, cold winter and a cold, wet spring too. They were down to just a few hives when it was all over…

  4. Pingback: Fragrant Questions | The Fragrant Man

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