I was reading some of the most recent scientific information about honey bees and the news is not good. It’s not good for us as honey consumers or people that desire to have a clean food source but the news is even worse for the bees. What I read is that 75% of all the honey is contaminated with pesticides! Sorry I did not mean to yell that but wtf; 75% of all the honey in the world is contaminated with pesticides. This is a catastrophe! Didn’t you know that 1 in 3 bites of the food we eat either directly, or indirectly reliant upon pollination by pollinators (That means Honey bees!).
The news may not be that drastic for us, the people that like to eat honey. You don’t have to run home to throw away all your honey. While the pesticides were detectable, they were well below the threshold concentrations that would cause harm to humans. But you will not have any of that great sweet tasting honey if you don’t have any honey bees.
So, you’re safe- for now.
I say it that way because the levels detected in 48% of the samples were at unsafe levels for honey bees. We are losing honey bees worldwide (see previous post in our blog). The nectar and pollen bees consume in the spring, summer, and fall are contaminated with these pesticides. The bees make honey from the nectar they collect as their winter food source. The pesticides are concentrated in the honey, the only source of food to keep the honey bees alive until spring arrives. Chronic, long term exposure to pesticides causes well documented problems for the bees.
“According to research, two pesticides commonly used by farmers today could affect bees brains. The two pesticides namely, neonicotinoids and coumaphos target bees brains, thus making it a slow learner and make the it forget floral scents. They also found that, the combination effect of these two pesticides, were far greater than individual effect. Bees that were exposed to combined insecticides, were slow to learn or sometimes completely forgot important associations between their ability to nectar and floral scent.
How can we help the bees? Should you insist on only getting pesticide free honey? Should you start a boycott of the companies that supply pesticides? Should you kick your neighbor when you see him spraying to kill the ants around his picnic table. I wish I had the answer; unfortunately, to get the pesticides out of the honey will require regulatory action to limit or ban source chemicals.
The sources of the pesticide contamination are well know and the effects (i.e lower birth rates, mutations, weakened immune system and death) on the bees have been know for years. I will link you to an article from 2010 that lists the different types of pesticides and it gives very thorough discussion of the impact of the listed pesticides on bees. It also highlights the fact that this issue has been known about for some time, but our government has chosen not to address the dangers of these pesticides through restriction of use or outright banning, nor have they attempted to educate consumers of the unintended negative impact these chemicals can have.
Harmful pesticides to pollinators This article
This problem does not just affect the United States of America but it is worldwide. With 75% of all honey samples showing pesticides in them and 86% of the samples from North America tested positive for at least one Neonicotinoid.
These shocking and scary statistics came from an extensive and well documented article published in Science Magazine and a shorter article in The Scientist, both released last week. They warrant reading, as they discuss how these pesticides negatively affect bees and why we should care. Here is an excerpt from the Science article:
“Bees rely on nectar and pollen sources for their survival. Nectar is transformed into honey and stored in the hive for daily adult consumption and is essential for winter survival. A mature colony can be populated by up to 60,000 adult bees and therefore needs vast amounts of food. “
Organophosphate pesticides, such as Naled and Chlorpyrifos, have been shown to cause damage to the bees as well. In 2016, South Carolina accidently killed millions of bees when they sprayed Naled to control mosquitoes. While Naled poses the immediate problem of mass deaths due to acute poisoning by a neurotoxin, Chlorpyrifos poses an indirect danger to the bees. Even very small amounts have been shown to “dumb down” bees, by interfering with their memory and affecting the mental development of larvae and young bees. In this way, it causes a slow and steady decline in bee populations, by causing the bees to starve to death, as well as causing them to forget where their hive is. Sadly, earlier this year, The US EPA chose to reverse an Obama era order that was to go into effect banning Chlorpyrifos, against that agencies own findings.
In contrast, when Germany experienced a massive bee loss in 2008 that was determined to be due to the Neonicotinoid Clothianidin, Clothianidin, as well as other neonicotinoids, were banned in Germany. The EU imposed a temporary ban on the three most widely used Neonicotinoids on certain crops in 2013. There are EU proposals for a complete ban on the use of Neonicotinoids, with the only exception being for plants grown entirely in greenhouses. The proposed ban is to be voted on this year.
In the United States, the EPA is currently working on risk assessments for 5 out of the 7 Neonicotinoid pesticides that are used pesticide formulations, with preliminary assessments to be completed in 2018. We can only hope our government is responsive to the hazards these pesticides pose to pollinators, and therefore to us. Unfortunately, after seeing how Chlorpyrifos was handled by the EPA last year, chemical companies are likely to win again over bees and people.
Here’s what you can do to help:
- Educate yourself.
- Do not buy or use products that contain these hazardous chemicals. Here is a listing of products that contain neonicotinoids. This link provides names of common organophosphate pesticides.
- Contact your lawmakers. Let them know what you think, and let them know this is an issue, that as a voter, you are concerned about. The use of these hazardous chemicals needs to restricted or banned.
- Contact Walmart, Lowes, Home Depot, and other store chains that sell and/or use these dangerous pesticides. Let them know that you will spend your money at stores that ban the sale or use of these products.
- And finally, don’t get discouraged or distracted, and give up. This is really important, and you are the voice for the bees.