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Bee populations see improvement after three toxic herbicides are banned from their environment


(NaturalNews) "It appears that perhaps one-third of our total diet is dependent, directly or indirectly, upon insect-pollinated plants." These words, written in 1976 by retired USDA apiculturist S.E. McGregor, still ring true today. Today, the Economics of Plant Pollination (as his paper was entitled), are more important than ever, as honey bees, butterflies and other insect pollinators feel the pressure of growing populations and an overall greater demand for pollinated crops.

To make matters worse, agricultural systems in the past century have moved away from utilizing integrated pest management strategies, and have abandoned working with the natural defense mechanisms that are already inherent in crops. Agricultural systems today rely heavily on spraying tons of toxic synthetic pesticides, insecticides and herbicides, which in turn dramatically shift the livelihood and dynamics of the ecosystem. These chemical-dependent agricultural systems have put great strain on pollinators, weakening the insects' immune systems, and confusing their natural patterns of pollination. Honey bees are becoming so confused, that a large percentage of individual colonies don't even return to their hives. Sometimes they do return, only to die in the hives. The chemicals they must endure as they pollinate are slowly taking their colonies down.

Neonicotinoids confuse honey bees, leading to colony collapse

Honey bee colonies were dying off so fast in Europe that something major had to be done. In 2013, the European Commission went after three of the most destructive, widely-used neonicotinoid pesticides. The European regulatory authority banned clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam in 2013, as scientists anxiously waited to see if there would be improvements in honey bee colony health. Neonicotinoids are systemic pesticides that get taken up by the plant. The chemical is then transported to all the tissues of the plant, including the leaves, flowers, pollen and nectar.

As retired USDA apiculturist McGregor pointed out in his paper, "Another value of pollination lies in its effect on quality and efficiency of crop production."

Pointing to insights in earlier texts, McGregor warned, "Inadequate pollination can result not only in reduced yields but also in delayed yield and a high percentage of culls or inferior fruits. In this connection, Gates (1917) warned the grower that, ... 'without his pollinating agents, chief among which are the honey bees, to transfer the pollen from the stamens to the pistil of the blooms, his crop may fail.'"

Today, the European Academies Science Advisory Council couldn't agree more. The independent body, composed of representatives from the national science academies of European Union member states, has indisputable evidence that herbicides are eliciting "severe effects on a range of organisms that provide ecosystem services like pollination and natural pest control, as well as on biodiversity."

Europe sees resurgence in honey bee populations after banning three popular neonicotinoids

After banning the herbicides clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam, three years ago, Europe is already beginning to see a resurgence in bee populations. All three of these herbicides are still being used in the USA, where honeybee populations continue to rapidly decline. If the rest of the world doesn't begin cutting back on herbicide use significantly, as Europe has already started to do, then pollination of important vegetable and herb crops will likely diminish by 33 percent or more in the coming decade. This will directly influence agricultural economy, limiting the availability of a large assortment of healthy crops that were once made readily available through the tedious work of natural pollinators.

Nature's best pest control mechanisms already coexist in the environment. By continuing to take wide scale chemical approaches to the annihilation of pests, we throw off the intricate balance that is needed to sustain healthy ecosystems for future agricultural abundance. Parasitic wasps and ladybugs already provide insect control in the natural world, saving billions of dollars for agricultural systems around the world. Earthworms alone contribute billions of dollars worth of irreplaceable soil aeration that enhances overall soil productivity. Pill bugs do their share of soil work, and even help remove heavy metals from the soil, stabilizing growing conditions. Working with natural pest control mechanisms should take precedence over the hasty, chemical approaches that continue to fail pollinators, crop production and human health.

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