pesticides pollinator threats

Are we listening to the honey bee’s message?

I’m frequently asked if I support a ban on all pesticides. The truth is, my answer is no. I’m not against all pesticides. What’s more, I am actually for some of them.

For example, I’m not against most antibiotics used in medicine. Penicillin, for example, has saved my hide more than once, for which I am eternally grateful. But that’s not really a pesticide you say? Of course it is. A pesticide is a preparation designed to kill some form of life—even if it’s a bacterium.

I am also happy that millions of human lives have been saved from the ravages of things like malaria and plague. By having the tools to kill the vectors of these diseases—mosquitoes and fleas—we have made our world a better place.

What I am against is the wanton and reckless use of these preparations. Pesticides should be saved for the big threats. Instead we use them everywhere on everything. In fact, it has been the unbridled use of things like antibiotics that has rendered them useless against many organisms and given us scary diseases like MRSA. Similarly we have super weeds spreading across our farmlands and cockroaches that party on pesticides (cockroach cocktails).

In fact, we have gone completely berserk using poisons on food crops. Once upon a time, pesticides were used on crops to save them from total destruction. Then they were used to increase yields. But then something else happened—consumers began demanding “perfect” produce. They wanted corn with no ear worms, carrots all to themselves, potatoes without scab, and apples all of a piece. Right then–at the moment when consumers started demanding perfection—is when pesticide use really ran amok.

It’s the same “perfection” addiction that gave us weed-free lawns, perfectly manicured roadsides, playgrounds, park lands, and golf courses devoid of life. It was our demand for perfection that poisoned our water, air, and food supply—not a need to feed the world or stave off pestilence.

But the situation was destined to get worse. In the “old” days pesticides stayed on the outside of food crops. They could be washed off. Systemic pesticides—those that are taken into the vascular system of a plant and flow throughout the entire organism—were reserved for ornamental plants, plants that people and livestock didn’t actually eat.

But all that has changed. Now we eat them. No amount of washing in the world will remove the clothianidin from your corn or the imidacloprid from your grapes. We just lap it up. The honey bees have the same problem. In days gone by, you could remove beehives from the field during spraying and return them later without too many problems. But with pesticides that incorporate themselves into the plant, you can’t separate the two. When the bee drinks the nectar or eats the pollen, she gets a dose of poison as well.

The day I learned systemic insecticides were used on food was the day I began eating organic. But this, too, is troublesome. In a world where so many cannot afford the luxury of organically grown food we are creating a two-tiered class structure where folks in the military, the prisons, the public schools, and the lower income ranges are eating the poisons and the rest of us are letting it happen.

In the last few years honey bees have forced us to look seriously at the chemical soup we call “our environment.” I cherish her for that reason beyond all others. I only hope her message hasn’t come too late for us to do something about it.



  • It is not true that so called ‘poor’ people are not able to afford organic foods. By worldly standards I am very poor and am 69 years old but I always buy organic and only food I need as the general rule. Today I went to Iceland to get some kitchen roll and there were two people waiting at the till both of which at a guess would tell you they could not afford organic food but they were both buying a lot of crisps, biscuits, chocolates, water coca cola. This did not make sense to me – why not practise a little self discipline, give up the junk food and buy organic. It would be healthier and probably cheaper to do so.

  • My bees do not go into commercial agricultural areas. But I am lucky in this regard. I have bees from central Idaho, approaching the Montana border. All yards are on small, land owners’ places, with natural meadows and lots and lots of wild flowers and streams for clean water. The honey is superb, and in high demand.

    After finding piles of dead bees from pesticides, I have determined that the expense of taking them 100 to 200 miles north, is cheaper than buying packages every year. I am in the process of designing a Bee Travel Trailer. They will hold 10, 20, or 30 hives. Since I had a bear completely shred a few hives two weeks ago, they will also be bear proof. Just move them to the location, unhook, level, and go.

    Gotta do what you gotta do if you wanna keep your bees healthy, and I can tell you, since my bees have been in natural areas, they are booming! Bayer isn’t going to cut their market share for you, me, or our bees. I’m circumnavigating them.

  • Re: Afford organic foods

    People need to look at the aspects of eating clean, fresh, non-industrial food beyond those at the cash register. Our experience has been that paying a little more at the cash register results in consumption of less food (reduced cost) because your body is getting nourished and your immune system is regaining some of its function. Staying on a clean food diet then had real paybacks — all those toxic pharmaceutical drugs we were taking were discarded one by one. Taking into account total food and healthcare costs, it was a considerable reduction. Things your doctor and government may not have told you!

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