For this blog post, I will be discussing the National Geographic article, “Why Europe’s Insecticide Ban is Big News for Bees” by Stephen Leahy. It talks about Europe’s strengthening position against the use of insecticides and how it will affect bees. Bees are one of the most important species when it comes to maintaining Biodiversity in terrestrial nature and agriculture for humans. By pollinating our plants, they allow them to reproduce and continue feeding humans and livestock. From an ecological standpoint, bees maintain plant communities which are the bases for most life on earth. Humans have also used bees for millennia. The use of bee’s wax has been found on ancient pottery, which leads us to believe that humans used bees for their wax and honey since the dawn of civilization. Our modern-day insecticides pose a great threat to bees making them collateral damage in our mission to exterminate bugs that are harmful to our crops or pests like mosquitos.
To try and alleviate this problem, Europe is putting a ban on a set of pesticides called neonicotinoids. Since humans started using pesticides, they have often caused damage to many parts of the environment. Pesticides, like DDT, were used to kill insects all over America and was marked as safe for many years. The use of DDT was wide spread and sometimes even directly sprayed into areas where humans were present. Eventually, scientists found out that DDT was extremely toxic to humans and the environment, killing insects but also causing irreversible damage. Neonicotinoids were supposed to be a safer alternative to pesticides like DDT, and although they seem to not have a large effect on humans, they cause more damage to the environment.
Neonicotinoids work by killing the nerve cells of insects but also become absorbed and stored in plant tissue. When insects nibble on plants, the pesticide gets into their system and kills them. They are also found in the pollen and nectar of the plants which is why they have a negative effect on bees. When plants create seeds, they also become highly concentrated with neonicotinoids, hurting animals like the birds who eat them. It is said that most corn, soy, and wheat seeds produced today contain Neonicotinoids. They are also found in the soil and mix easily with water, which causes them to be washed out by rain into streams and eventually oceans while causing even more damage to the environment.
Previously, the ban on these pesticides only focused on flowering plants that are known to attract bees. However, Europe has currently banned all use of neonicotinoids because of their proven harmful effects to the environment. As usual, Europe is ahead of the United States in their environmental protection methods. The U.S. EPA has only temporarily banned the use of these chemicals with a goal of further studying their effects. Hopefully, in time the use of Neonicotinoids will be banned all around the world to protect our bees and the fragile ecosystem from the irreversible damage they cause.