Flying insects are disappearing


Many bee and other insect species are in decline. A 2019 report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that Europe and the Americas are seeing a 76 percent decrease in flying insects. Bee populations are declining; beekeepers are losing their bees to colony collapse disorder or to unexplained disappearance. Thirty-five percent of the world's plant crops require pollination by bees and other pollinators. Imagine no longer having apples, peaches, broccoli, peppers, oranges, coffee, cucumbers — the list of bee-pollinated crops is long. What can we do to help?

We must stop using pesticides. Neonicotinoids are used to kill harmful insects on vegetables and ornamental flowers. Some seeds are coated with "neonics"; when the plants grow, all parts of the plant are contaminated. Bees visiting "neonic" flowers bring the contaminated pollen and nectar back to their hives. According to Pesticides and You, "a growing number of studies find that even at low levels, neonicotinoids impair foraging ability, navigation, learning behavior, and suppress the immune system, making bees more susceptible to pathogens and disease."

In 2018, the European Food Safety Authority confirmed that neonicotinoids pose a risk to bees. Also, in 2018, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reported that glyphosate, the herbicide in Roundup and now used in many other products herbicides used to kill lawn weeds and available at local hardware stores, also harm bees.

Glyphosate disrupts an enzyme that plants need to make amino acids; some of the bacteria that inhabit a bee's digestive tract also use this enzyme. A study by biologist Nancy Moran at the University of Texas Austin showed that exposure to glyphosate changes a bee's microbiome, making the bee more vulnerable to disease.

"Let's stop using insecticides and herbicides," said Carol Berry, a herbalist and member of Transition Town Manchester. "Be sure the seeds we buy are pesticide free. Let's encourage dandelions. Please, give bees a chance."

This article is provided as part of Healthy Environment — Healthy Kids, an ongoing education project of Transition Town Manchester.



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