Friday, June 20, 2014

Nasty Neonicotinoids: Problematic for Pollinators

Post contributed by Mary, crew member of Youth Outdoors Crew 2:

This week is national pollinator week! It was created to celebrate and support pollinating animals, which include bees, butterflies, bats, beetles, flies, birds, small mammals and more.  Pollinators are essential members of every ecosystem and help 90% of flowering plants reproduce including a third of crops worldwide. With increased chemical use, pathogens, and disappearing habitat and food sources, pollinator populations have been in decline and they need our help.
You can celebrate pollinator week by planting native flowering plants in your gardens and choosing not to use pesticides that are harmful to the bees and butterflies. Neonicotinoids are a widely used family of insecticides, most commonly applied to ornamental plants in urban gardens to target aphids and beetles.  They are systemic in plants so when they are added to the soil, the plant takes it up as it grows and it is incorporated into the leaves, flowers, pollen, and nectar. Thus, if it is used in a nursery and then transported to your garden, the insecticide will still be active in the plant and can even enter neighboring plants or plants grown the next season. Neonicotinoids affect the nervous system and attack connections in the brain, which can lead to problems with navigation, flying, ability to learn new tasks, and general foraging ability.  Bees are especially vulnerable to neonicotinoids because they have more of the targeted receptors and more memory and learning genes than other insects. It has also been found that exposure to neonicotinoids may make bees more susceptible to parasites and pathogens. Making sure you purchase plants from nurseries that do not use neonicotinoids is incredibly important for the health of bees and ecosystems in general.

The European Union has suspended the use of certain neonicotinoids for a period of two years due to the effects they are having on bees. The EPA is re-evaluating the use of neonicotinoids through registration review, but has made no new restrictions yet.
To learn more: