Neonicotinoids and Bees

Neonicotinoids and Bees

There has been a lot of discussion in the news about the impact of neonicotinoids on bees. Studies confirm that neonicotinoids, a systemic pesticide used in farming, are killing bees. Wondering who funded these studies? The same chemical companies who manufacture the neonicotinoids. Research funded by these exact companies supported accusations that the chemicals are responsible for harming bee colonies.

We don't use neonicotinoids in our fields
Chesterhaven Beach Farm in full bloom

This is like a bad Seinfeld episode.

Picture it, Newman is the head of Bayer. Feeling pressured about claims being made about the connection of bee deaths to neonics, he orders up a few studies. Jerry's company heads up the study. The results come in and Jerry meets with Newman, greeting him with the infamous "Helloooo NEWWWMan, and reads him the results. "Neonicotinoids kill bees Newman, plain and simple. Done. No more. Better stop making the stuff." Newman then responds, "No. I will make even more. You don't know what you are talking about Jerry, what we make is safe for bees."

Sound too make-believe to you?! Read on.

The chemical companies actually concluded that neonicotinoids are safe. These large pesticide companies have so much power and influence over the industry and now the manipulation of the results of the studies, which they funded. We need to be aware of the implications this data has on our bees and our beekeeping.

This is bad news for beekeepers on the Eastern Shore and everywhere in the world for that matter.

The results have been critical to the future use of such chemicals in Europe. Bayer and Syngenta clashed with the EU in court earlier this year over bans on these products. The European Commission has drafted proposals to largely outlaw use of such pesticides in the countryside of their 28-nation union.

"Lower reproductive success was linked to increasing levels of neonicotinoid residues in nests of wild bee species across all three countries tested." When exposed to neonics, wild bees and honeybees had more difficulty reproducing, and fewer honeybee colonies survived the winter.

Neonicotinoids impact the bee’s nervous system and disorients them. They cannot find their home and often become so disoriented they ultimately get lost and die away from their family. If they make it home, they are bringing a systemic poison found within the pollen that will affect the other bees of the hive.

These pesticides not only reduce a bee's chance of survival, but impair its natural defense systems. Bees use social immunity to clean out dead or sick insects from the nest. Bees in colonies treated with neonics displayed less and less of this hygienic behavior over time, which means more sick bees were infecting and staying within the hives. The bee weren't keeping the hives clean. A lack of hygiene wasn't the worst of it. The tainted hives tended to lose their queen's more often and then struggled to create a new one. A queen sustains the colony, without her, there is no future for the hive.

Chesterhaven daisy field

We do not use pesticides on our farm.

At Chesterhaven Beach Farm, we've planted at least 40 acres of indigenous flowers to date. We farm for the bees, and we've figured out a few things over the last 7 years about bees and farming. Many of our flowers come back each year including lavender, mints, milkweed, yarrow, clover, bergamot, coneflowers, daisies, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, walnut trees, fruit trees and much more. It's truly beautiful and our bees are fed from late April until late September, naturally (weather permitting) without the need for supplementing their diets.

All of the work that we do to feed the bees gives our Eastern Shore Honey for Spring and Autumn a wonderful and unique flavor rich in floral notes.

Cabbage white in a field at Chesterhaven Beach Farm on Maryland's Eastern Shore

"Good beekeeping practices and planting wild flower margins could mean that the impact of neonicotinoids 'can be minimal or in some cases even positive."

Syngenta said in a statement.

I see first-hand how the bees benefit from being surrounded by plant material that makes them thrive. I am not sure I see the connection between planting wildflower margins and neonicotinoids --do you?

Why are we still using neonicotinoids if we know of their lethal power? As mothers and fathers, we don’t feed our children harmful ingredients and we don’t expose them to lethal chemicals. So why are we feeding the bees killer food?

Bees are responsible for a third of the food we eat. We owe it to them to make sure that the food we provide for them sustains them.



Xerces Society