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The Surprising Threat to the Honeybee

July 15, 2014
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The Surprising Threat to the Honeybee
Chris McGrath/Getty Images
Gardeners, take note: The flowers that you planted to attract bees could actually bring about the death of the endangered insect.

We’re a big champion of the honeybee. And who wouldn’t be: About one-fourth of the foods Americans consume are the result of bee pollination.

However, while some new plants in stores like Lowe’s, Home Depot and Orchard Supply tout themselves as bee friendly — they’ve been found to contain pesticides that kill the very same insects they claim to be buddies with.

The pesticide under suspicion is any type of neonics, including neonicotinoid. According to Scientific American, scientists, consumer groups, beekeepers and others say bee deaths are linked to neonic pesticides.

In a study released by Friends of the Earth, an international network of environmental groups, and BeeAction.org, the pesticide neonicotinoid has been linked to 51 percent of commercial nursery plant samples — meaning consumers are quite likely to pick up a plant to boost bee production in their garden only to have it kill the bees they wanted.

In a move that should definitely help the beloved honeybee, Home Depot and other U.S. companies have begun to eliminate this type of pesticide. For the plants that the pesticide has already been used on, a label will warn customers.

MORE: Landing At This Airport: Millions of Bees

Ron Jarvis, Home Depot’s vice president of merchandising/sustainability explained, “Home Depot is deeply engaged in understanding the relationship of the use of certain insecticides on our live goods and the decline in the honeybee population.”

Other stores like BJ’s Wholesale Club and other small retailers across the country are doing their part to eliminate pesticides when possible, too. They requested their vendors to provide plants without any neonics by the end of 2014, or to label them to caution consumers.

This past winter alone, the total losses of the managed honeybee colonies were at 23 percent, as noted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The problem is so serious that the USDA has provided $8 million to Midwest states to try and boost the honeybee population through added habitats. And according to Time, the White House has also issued a task force to study why the honeybees are dying and how to reverse these declines.

Despite the correlations that seem to have been found, there are still naysayers like Bayer, Monsanto and other agrichemical companies. When speaking about neonicotinoids, Bayer spokesperson Becca Hogan explained, “the fact that residues of a registered product were allegedly found in some ornamental plants does not…indicate causation for colony decline, which most experts contribute to a number of factors.”

However, the European Union seems to disagree with Bayer and others because they recently banned all neonicotinoid pesticides in an effort to save the bees abroad.

Let’s hope that the U.S. makes the same move soon. Or the days of biscuits topped with sweet honey could be a thing of the past.

DON’T MISS: This City Has Taken a Very Important Step in Protecting the Honeybee

 

 

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