What are Neonics and Why are They Bad?
There are several factors that contribute to bee decline. From loss of habitat, to climate change, to pathogens, to colony collapse disorder, bees are facing hard times. However, Bee Safe Boulder has made the choice to focus on the elimination of neonicotinoids in order to save bees for many reasons:
In 2014 The International Union of Concerned Scientists conducted a meta analysis of 800 peer reviewed reports and concluded that neonicotinoids are a key factor in the decline of bees.
A 2011 study found that bees who are exposed to neonicotinoids succumb more easily to Nosema ceranae, a parasite that is aiding in the worldwide bee decline. Likewise, the use of neonicotinoids exacerbate other key factors that contribute to bee decline.
- While climate change, loss of habitat, and other factors leading to bee decline are systemic problems that will take national attention in addition to grassroots movements, the choice to eliminate neonicotinoids from your yard and garden is both effective in the fight to save the bees and something that each individual has the power to do. We believe in empowering individuals and fostering community within the environmental movement, and this is our way of doing that!
Take action against neonicotinoid use by pledging to make your yard or garden bee safe.
To learn more about neonicotinoids, continue reading below!
Neonicotinoids, or neonics for short, are "a class of insecticides that share a common mode of action that affect the central nervous system of insects, resulting in paralysis and death" (via Beyond Pesticides).
Effects on Bees
- Neonics are highly toxic to bees and are a key contributor to recent bee declines.
- Neonicotinoids are persistent and can exist in soil for up to six years.
- Neonics are systemic, meaning that they are present in every part of infected plants.
- In a study conducted by Purdue University, traces of toxic neonicotinoids were found in every collected sample of dead and dying bees.
- Most neonicotinoids sold to homeowners have no warning of the risks that they pose to bees and are, therefore, used indiscriminately as insecticides.
- The two main manufacturers of neonicotinoids, Bayer and Syngenta, have repeatedly denied any link between neonicotinoids and bee decline, in spite of scientific studies that support the notion.
- Neonics have been linked to fetal developmental disorders. According to the European Food Safety Commission, neonicotinoids "obstruct the normal development and function of the human nervous system, as well as damage brain structures and functions associated with learning and memory."
- Neonicotinoids are relatively water-soluble and are polluting water sources. They are also known toxins to aquatic life.
- Recent studies conducted by the Department of Agriculture show that, due to the systemic nature of neonics, they cannot be washed off of the surface of exposed fruits, vegetables, and honey and are, therefore, being exposed to humans in large quantities.
How You May be Contributing to Neonicotinoid Spread
Neonics are widespread in the gardening world. In fact, a recent study showed that more than 50% of plants advertised as "bee friendly" sold in 18 North American cities contained unlabeled neonicotinoids.
In addition, lawn and garden products with neonics are dominant, and even flea and tick collars contain imidacloprid, a popular neonicotinoid.
What You Can Do to Avoid Neonics
- Sign our Bee Safe Neighbor Pledge!
- Check the Label: if the gardening products that you use list neonicotinoids as active ingredients, or the word systemic appears on an insecticide you use, DO NOT USE THEM or you will be poisoning pollinators. You can see the names of some popular neonics below.
- Use organic gardening and pest-management methods.
- Buy organic plants and seeds.
- Shop at one of our bee safe retailers instead of big name stores like Home Depot and Lowes.
- Beware of tree care companies who inject trees with neonicotinoids to "prevent Emerald Ash Borer." Opt instead for organic, sustainable tree care companies! You can see our list of suggested tree and lawn care companies here.
Common Types of Neonicotinoids:
- "The Best and Worst States to be a Honeybee" via Vox
- "Poison Spring: The Secret History of Pollution and the EPA" by E.G. Vallianatos
- "Gardeners Beware: Bee-Toxic Pesticides Found in "Bee-Friendly" Plants Sold at Garden Centers Nationwide" via Friends of the Earth
- "Low Doses of Pesticides Put Honey Bees at Risk" via Beyond Pesticides
- "Nosema ceranae and nosema disease of honeybees" via Ministry for Primary Industries
- "Chemicals Implicated: Neonicotinoids" via Beyond Pesticides
- "Are Neonicotinoids Killing Bees" via The Xerces Society
- Bee Action Campaign via Friends of the Earth
- "Researchers: Honeybee deaths linked to seed insecticide exposure" via Purdue University
- "Insecticides Similar to Nicotine Widespread in Midwest" via United States Geological Survey (USGS)
- "Neonicotinoid pesticides not just a threat to bees; humans also at risk" via Natural News
- "Quantitative Analysis of Neonicotinoid Insecticide Residues in Foods: Implication for Dietary Exposures" via Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry