Earlier this month what was suppose to be a simple mosquito eradication in South Carolina resulted in devastation for almost all of the indigenous bee population. The pesticides used are supposed to target species of mosquitoes that can carry the Zika virus have also killed millions of bees.
This single incident is one of quite a few that have been causing the death of our beneficial pollinators and it has now led to the bumblebee’s proposed listing as an endangered species! Wednesday the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service made this proposition to list the rusty patched bumblebee as an endangered species. These bees are prized pollinators that were at one point widely found in the upper Midwest and Northeastern United States. Now it seems their numbers are becoming so low that they are in need of federal protection.
The bumblebee is actually one of several wild bee species that have seen a dramatic decline in the past few decades. The bumblebee is now the first ever bee in the continental United States to be formerly proposed for listing under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. Bumblebees are easily distinguishable from their relatives the domesticated honey bees. They are extremely important in the pollination of wild flowers and literally one third of crops here in the United States. Things like blueberries and tomatoes rely on bumblebees. According to experts the contributions made by these bees to many farms is worth an estimated 3.5 billion dollars.
It has also been harder for researchers to document the decline of these wild bees since they are not managed commercially or tracked carefully by beekeepers. This proposition for protection is going to cause quite the uproar on the amount of damage to the bee population being caused by pesticides though the damage their causing is quite clear.
The only people who seem to see no harm in them are the ones who use them. You see back in the 1980s the potent class of pesticides known as neonicotinoids became quite popular and now dominate the agricultural industry. Almost all of the corn here in the United States and at least one third of the soybeans are treated with these neonics. They have even made developments that make matters even worse. Neonic-coated seeds, these seeds are especially terrible because all parts of the plant growing become infused with the toxin including the pollen. This is deadly for bumblebees.
It has been proven that neonic has a large impact on long-term bee decline.
Over half of the total decline of bee species is due to insecticides. Researchers in England took the time to look at 18 years of data on 64 different wild bee species and the use of neonics on the oil-seed rape plant. Literally all 34 species of bees that forage on oil-seed rape ended up showing at least a ten percent decline due to neonics. The most affected groups having up to a thirty percent decline. Something really needs to be done about these neonic seeds and chemicals being used if we want to work towards preserving what is left of the bumblebee population as well as other bee species.
However, considering the fact that these neonics are in the hands of companies like Monsanto who have deep roots and friends in the FDA and other government agencies I doubt the affect these toxins are having on our environment will be taken into consideration until it is far too late.