How many bites of food do you take in a day? This number is probably large enough that coming up with an accurate figure is difficult. Now imagine that you cut that down by 1/3. To put it another way, for every three bites you normally enjoy, subtract one of them. This number illustrates the influence of pollinators on our diet. And it is just a conservative estimate.
That third bite you might one day be missing is due to the loss of honeybees, one of the most important creatures in our food supply. Their daily work involves pollinating many of the plants that produce our food. This long list includes apples, nuts, avocados, asparagus, broccoli, celery, squash, cucumbers, and citrus fruits, as well as peaches, kiwi, cherries, blueberries, cranberries, strawberries, cantaloupe and other melons. Can we imagine these foods missing from our plates? It’s a possibility with harvests decreasing for many of these items as commercial beekeepers report unprecedented colony losses of 29% – 36% every year since 2006 (panna.org).
Although the reasons for the die off are complex, one class of pesticides has been clearly linked. Neonicotinoids, applied to control aphids and grubs, are nearly everywhere in our environment. They are used by commercial growers, home gardeners, and city maintenance crews in public parks. Plants purchased from home garden centers are frequently pre-treated with these pesticides, so even if you do not spray them yourself, you may unwittingly be affecting the bees in your neighborhood.
Many environmental groups are speaking up and working to protect honeybees.
The non-profit Beyond Toxics of Eugene, Oregon, has successfully lobbied the city to ban neonicotinoids. Eugene is the first city in the nation to take this step. When put to a vote, city council members unanimously supported the ban. This landmark law sets the standard for all cities to legislate protection of our pollinators.
Learn more about neonicotinoids and the work being done to ban them at Beyond Toxics website (beyondtoxics.org), and at the website for the Pesticide Action Network (panna.org). Let’s keep this movement going to save honeybees, who in turn will save us.