Let's give bees a chance

In recent years, beekeepers report they’re losing on average 30% of all honeybee colonies each winter — twice the loss considered economically tolerable.

Image: Qypchak/ Wikimedia Creative Commons

We rely on bees to pollinate 71 of the 100 crops that provide 90% of most of the world’s food. Imagine no almonds, fewer apples and strawberries, less alfalfa to feed dairy cows, and the list goes on.

Image: Flickr User: Fried Dough - Creative Commons

6,000 times more toxic than DDT

Scientists point to several causes behind the problem, including global warming, habitat loss, parasites and a class of bee-killing insecticides known as neonicotinoids (or neonics).

When seeds are treated with neonics, the chemicals work their way into the pollen and nectar of the plants — which, of course, is bad news for bees and other pollinators. Worse, for the bees and for us, neonics are about 6,000 times more toxic to bees than DDT.

Just one example: After a nearby farm planted corn seeds coated with neonics in 2013, a farmer named Dave Schuit lost 37 million of his bees. “Once the corn started to get planted our bees died by the millions,” said Schuit.

Image: Waugsberg / Wikimedia Creative Commons

We're up against big agrichemical companies

Given the consequences for our farms and our food, you’d think we’d be doing all we can to protect bees and other pollinators from threats like neonics.  

Instead, big agrichemical companies like Dow Chemical, Bayer and Syngenta are fighting to prevent bans. And Syngenta has asked federal regulators for permission to use even larger quantities of these pesticides — as much as 400 times more than currently allowed. 

Some governments aren’t letting the big chemical companies push them around. Alarmed by the role these chemicals are playing in bee colony collapse disorder, the European Union has banned several of them; the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has committed to phasing them out on the public lands they manage; and Seattle, Minnesota and Oregon have all agreed to take some form of action against neonics. 

Some companies are taking action as well. Home Depot and BJ’s Wholesale Club have taken steps to limit plants treated with neonics, label the plants or both. More than 100 businesses sent a letter to the White House urging the Obama administration to do more to protect bees and other pollinators against toxic pesticides. And we’ll continue to urge other retailers to phase out neonics and do more to warn gardeners and other customers.

In order to restore bee populations to health, however, we need the EPA to step up and lead. 

Image: Justin Leonard / Flickr User-Creative Commons

Together, we can give bees a chance 

Right now, we’re letting big agrichemical companies use more of the chemicals that are known to kill bees just as we’re in the midst of an unsustainable die-off in bee populations. That has to change. Now.

Join us in calling on the EPA to declare a nationwide moratorium on the use of bee-killing neonics.

 

Issue updates

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Apply for a summer internship with Environment Maine

Environment Maine is now accepting applications for our summer internship program.

Our summer interns work on a close-knit team to affect change on issues ranging from climate change to sustainable agriculture to protecting Maine’s waterways. Organizing training and hands-on experience are at the core of our program.

If that sounds up your alley, apply here for an internship with Environment Maine. We're accepting applications on a rolling basis for summer internships in Portland. If you’re interested in interning with one of our 29 state sister organizations around the country and in Washington, D.C., apply here.

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