Citizen Science Project Reveals Widespread Contamination of Honey.
A recent study published in the journal Science revealed that seventy five percent of honey samples collected between 2012 and 2016 showed measurable amounts of neonicotinoids, a type of neurotoxic insecticide. The project, begun as a citizen science project by researchers at the Botanical Garden of Neuchâtel, Switzerland, tested honey donated from around the world.
The highest contamination levels were found in North America. 86% of North American samples contained at least one neonicotinoids, with Asia at 80% and Europe at 79% following right behind. Of the samples tested, South America showed the least amount of contamination at 57%. Approximately half of the samples showed more than one type of insecticide.
What Effects do Neonicotinoids Have on Bees?
A study conducted by Amro Zayed, a biologist at York University in Toronto and published in June of this year, explains exactly what happens to bees and other insects that encounter clothianidin, a common neonicotinoid. In an article published by PBS on June 29, 2017 by Toni Dengler, “The pesticides not only reduced a bee’s chance of survival, but impaired its natural defense systems. While humans rely on vaccines or antibiotics, bees use social immunity, a tactic bees use to clean out dead or sick brood insects from the nest. Bees in colonies treated with clothianidin displayed less and less of this behavior over time, which means more sick bees were infecting, and staying in, the nests.”
Neonicotinoid exposure causes neural dysfunction that limit a bee’s ability to learn and remember. This is exhibited in bumblebees’ inability to forage after exposure. So even if the bees make it back to the hive, they can contaminate and make the rest of the hive sick. Sick hives tend to lose their queen, without which the hive slowly dies off, unable to produce eggs and future generations. Tapering populations of bees mean less pollination of plants such as food crops. Lack of pollination means reduced crop yields. You can see where this leads…
What Effects do Neonicotinoids Have on Humans?
The answer to this question is sadly lacking. There is little published research on the effect of neonicotinoids on vertebrates, though some do indicate the possibility of harm to humans.
In a February 2017 review of eight studies published by Environmental Health Perspectives, researchers concluded that “The studies conducted to date were limited in number with suggestive but methodologically weak findings related to chronic exposure. Given the wide-scale use of neonics, more studies are needed to fully understand their effects on human health.” That being said, three of the eight studies reviewed showed adverse health implications in cases of acute exposure to neonicotinoids.
What Can I Do To Stop the Use Of Neonicotinoids?
- You can start by educating yourself. There are plenty of great sites dedicated to reaching and teaching the masses about bees. Check out Bee Informed, the National Pesticide Information Center and Pollinator Partnership to name just a few.
- Avoid purchasing plants that have been treated with Neonicotinoids. If you haven’t read our post about how we first learned about the threat these pesticides pose, please go back and read it now.
- Get involved. Sign a petition. Donate to an organization you trust. We donate a percentage of our profits each month to organizations that work to protect out environment. Read more about who we support and why we’ve chosen them on our Giving Back page.
- Plant a Pollinator Garden Using Plants Native to Your Region. Use Native Plant Finder, a web database that contains thousands of native plant profiles. You can easily search using your area code. Once you’ve selected your plants, take the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge and register your pollinator garden online to show your solidarity with native bees, birds and other pollinators. Read our blog post about how we started a pollinator garden at our home.