Discovered in the early 1990s, neonicotinoids are highly efficient pesticides. They are used as foliar sprays on horticultural crops such as soft fruits, and on some arable crops. Neonicotoids are also sold for garden use as a spray for flowers and vegetables. In addition, they are commonly used against soil-dwelling insect pests. Neonicotoids are now the most widely used insecticides in the world. One reason for their popularity is that they require no action from the farmer.
These neuro-active insecticides have a direct and indirect impact on wildlife and plants. They kill bees and other insects, and affect the ecosystem. Highly toxic, neonicotinoids are systemic insecticides, meaning that they are absorbed by the plants and transported to all tissues.
For several years, beekeepers have been blaming neonicotinoids for Colony Collapse Disorder, which affects bee’s colonies and triggers sudden death. It is characterized by a disruption of the bees’ abilities to navigate, meaning that they leave the hive and never return.
Intensive spraying kills all insects, including honeybees. Beekeepers have moved their colonies out of such areas to protect them. Bees ensure pollination for over 80% of crops and wild plants in Europe. Currently, beekeepers are deploring a significant drop in bee numbers of more than 10% around the world.
Why are bees so important?
In December 2015, the association Pollinis launched a campaign to stop the use of neonicotinoids in France and Europe. View it here. Now, more than 350,000 people have signed the petition launched by Pollinis.
Bees play a crucial role in pollination, transferring pollen from the male part of the plant to the female part. No man alive would be able to do their work in their place if they disappeared. Scientists and beekeepers are calling on agrichemical companies to change their ways of producing pesticides, especially as regards neonicotinoids.
To minimize the use of toxic products and try to protect bees, scientists and several farmers are promoting agroecology. This covers a range of principles that include using renewable resources, protecting and conserving resources, fostering and managing ecological relationships within the ecosystem, adapting to local environments, empowering people, seeking and maximizing long-term benefits, and valuing animal, human and environmental health. These methods might seem somewhat small-scale, but they are in fact effective, and demand considerable knowledge and comprehension of the ecosystem.
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