No Bees, No Food

The bees are dying, and it's a big problem

Credit: satephoto/Shutterstock

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

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

Credit: Fried Dough via Flickr. CC BY 2.0

6,000 times more toxic than DDT

Scientists point to several causes behind the bee 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.  That's bad news, 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 2012, 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.

Credit: Warden via Wikimedia Creative Commons. CC BY-SA 3.0.

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 neonic 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 SeattleMinnesota 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 from 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 the health of bee populations, however, we need the EPA to step up and lead.  

Credit: Justin Leonard via Flickr. CC BY 2.0

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 even though we’re in the midst of an unsustainable die-off in bee populations. That has to change. Now.

That's why we're calling on the EPA to stop the use of bee-killing pesticides. We know that if we build enough grassroots support, the EPA will have to listen. Together, we can save the bees and our food supply.