Ah, the marvelous scent of hyacinths, and the dreamy buzzing of a languorous bee. What a great combination!
I love it when the bees appear each spring. It gives me hope – for a healthy harvest here at home, and for our planet.
Bees are hard working and much needed by every one of us: globally, they pollinate three quarters of the foods we humans eat. Without them our plates would be pretty empty. So you’d think we’d respect and honour these little critters, out of our own self-interest if nothing else.
Yet around the world, bees are in trouble. One of the main culprits appears to be a class of pesticides called neonicotinoids, or “neonics” for short (which incidentally, also look to be harming birds).
Neonics are used to treat seeds and plants for home gardens and commercial agriculture, as well as lawns, termites and fleas. They persist in the soil for years, permeate the whole plant and come out in the pollen and nectar – even in dew drops. And bad news for humans, they can’t be washed off our food.
So what’s a person to do? We can buy certified organic food (especially when buying corn or soybean products). Gardeners can choose organic seeds and plants – untreated with pesticides – and use only organic growing methods. We can plant herbs and flowers that bees enjoy: look particularly for blue, purple or yellow blossoms.
The Bayer corporation is heavily involved in neonics, so there’s also a step you can take even if you’re not a gardener or farmer: replacing your bottle of Bayer Aspirin with generic ASA. And while you’re at it, check if your dog or cat’s flea treatment contains imidacloprid, the most widely used insecticide in the world (and Bayer Crop Science’s largest seller).
We can also take heart from the fact that change may be in the works. Despite an intense industry lobby, European leaders are pushing on in their bid to win a ban* on three major neonics used in seed treatment, and in the US, the government is being sued by beekeepers and public interest groups for failing to protect pollinators from neonics. (*Update, April 30, 2013: Great news – the ban has now been adopted by the European nations. This is the world’s first-ever continent-wide ban and a landmark victory for environmental campaigners!)
In the meantime, how about going outside to watch and listen to those beautiful bees at work? It’s guaranteed to bring on a case of the warm fuzzies.