Save Oregon's Bees
Photo by Jennifer DiFrancesco
We Need Our Bees
Healthy and diverse pollinator populations are an integral piece in the larger picture of worldwide health and nutrition. Research shows that if pollination is managed well on small diverse farms, crop yields increase by a statistically significant median of 24 percent. Foods richest in nutrients, such as kale, blueberries, apples and almonds all depend on insect pollination. If a crop has been well pollinated, then larger and more nutritious leaves, fruits and seeds can develop.
Pollinators and Climate Change
Amid rapid climate changes and other impacts of human activities, we are witnessing continuous declines in pollinator health across the planet. If this trend continues, nutrient-dense crops such as fruits, nuts and many vegetables will be replaced largely by self-pollinating and wind-pollinated crops like rice, corn and wheat. Increased agricultural monocropping and widespread pesticides use has a significant impact on wild bee declines across the globe. The unpredictable changes in global climate are likely to make such problems worse in the future. As pollinator populations decline, the lower production of healthy fruits and vegetables is placing the entire natural ecosystem in peril.
The Problem with Neonicotinoids
Neonicotinoid pesticides (spell out pronunciation: knee-oh-nick-a-tin-oy-ds), are a contributing factor to the catastrophic loss of bees and other animals as they are highly toxic to insects at very low doses. They are absorbed and taken up by the plant, ending up in the nectar and pollen collected by pollinators and the seeds, fruits, and leaves eaten by other animals. Neonics are designed to persist, thus can continue to kill earthworms and other beneficial soil organisms long after they’ve been applied. Studies conclude that pesticide application rates that regulatory agencies consider protective to the environment actually harm aquatic organisms found in surface waters (dragonflies mayflies, snails and other animals that form the base of the food chain and a healthy, clean watershed) and build up in soils to levels that can kill soil organisms.
Where are neonics found?
Neonics are the world’s most commonly used insecticides. They are used in agriculture, urban yards, and for termite and flea prevention in pets. Neonic-pesticides are usually sprayed directly onto crops and trees, seeds. Neonics are often found in higher concentrations in urban areas than in agricultural lands. This is likely because they are commonly found in treatments for turf grass, trees, shrubs and flowers and are widely available in stores and online.
Pesticide labels don’t warn consumers about the uptake of neonicotinoids through tissue in trees and plants. Shoppers assume that products sold at garden and grocery stores are completely safe, thus are less likely to read pesticide labels. Research shows that the home use of pesticides containing neonicotinoids far exceeds “all safe levels” for pollinators and soil health.
Oregon’s Current Policy on Bees & Neonicotinoids
In 2015 Oregon passed legislation to require pollinator protection education for licensed pesticide applicators. This program has the potential to decrease the number of acute bee-kill incidents in professional settings. However, the 2015 legislation does not address the long-term persistence of neonicotinoids or the harm they cause to native pollinators and water quality.
TOP 10 home garden bee-killing products to avoid (PDF)
What are local cities doing?
Eugene Parks and Open Spaces Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Policy seeks to find the least toxic and most effective means of pest management on City property that pesticides be reduced or eliminated, wherever possible. Neonics are banned on City of Eugene properties. The majority of the city’s properties either have no pesticides applied or targeted and minimal quantities of pesticides (mostly herbicides) are applied as a last resort. Your city could be next!
8 THINGS YOU CAN DO TO HELP...
1. Do not apply neonics to your yard. Avoid pesticides containing neonics! Check labels before buying products. Ask your landscaper for detailed information about any products applied to your yard and ensure that neonics are not used. Better yet, keep your yard healthy for people and the environment by going pesticide-free and using natural lawn care.
Safe alternatives for toxic pesticides (credit: Beyond Pesticides):
Products Compatible with Organic Landscape Management – PDF
Fertilizers Compatible with Organic Landscape Management – PDF
2. Grow bee-friendly flowers (BEE FRIENDLY FLOWERS & BLOOM CALENDAR) that bloom from spring to fall to provide food for pollinators. To avoid poisoning pollinators, ask your garden center or nursery if plants have been treated with neonics. Support nurseries that provide neonic-free plants. You can also grow plants from untreated seed or cuttings. Share untreated plants, cuttings and bulbs with your friends and neighbors! Add more native plants to your garden to provide food for native bumblebees, solitary bees, butterflies, hummingbirds and other pollinators.
3. Enhance ground nesting bee habitat. Solitary bees prefer to build nests underground. They look for loose, well-drained soils in sunny spots, often with some nearby plant debris they can use for nesting (raspberry canes, tomato stalks, etc).
4. Urge local food growers, nurseries and garden centers to stop selling plants treated with neonics and to support legislation to remove neonics from consumer store shelves.
5. Become a partner in the Non Toxic Oregon Project
6. Support non-profit organizations that advocate for stronger pollinator protections and raise awareness about issues impacting pollinator health. You can volunteer, or donate money to organizations to help them continue their work.
7. Become a Bee City!
8. Support Regenerative Agriculture. Regenerative agriculture restores or revitalizes its own sources of energy and materials to support humans, plants, wildlife and our climate. Read more about our Regenerative Ecosystems work->>