The thing to remember about pesticides is this: they are designed to kill living things. As it happens, living things have a lot in common. There’s a very old saying, “the dose makes the poison.” That just means that if you keep giving something a greater and greater dose, eventually you will kill it.
The chemical companies would like you to believe that their products are specialized to kill certain things and spare others, but that is largely a myth. Some insecticides kill fish, some rodenticides kill birds, some acaricides kill bees. And of course Raid contains an insecticide and a bumble bee is an insect—no surprise there.
Most of the insecticides used on farm crops used to be applied before the bees were brought in for pollination. Although this did nothing for the wild bees, it lessened the pesticide exposure to the managed bees. But since the systemic insecticides came into use that system doesn’t work even for managed bees. The poison goes throughout the plant, the bees eat the pollen, and . . . bingo . . . the manufacturers deny everything.
Besides the poisons I usually write about, there are many other classes of pesticides, including avicides (kill birds), molluscicides (kill snails and slugs), nematicides (kill roundworms), piscicides (kill fish), and predacides (kill vertebrate predators.) Wow, that last one hits close to home. As you can see from this list, the distinction is mostly one of degree—what’s the difference between a rodent and a vertebrate predator, other than size?
Still, I doubt we will ever stop using pesticides completely, because in addition to the long list of “cides” above, I failed to mention the antimicrobials, which kill bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens. So, sure, your penicillin tablet is a pesticide.
I believe there will always be legitimate uses for pesticides, but the truly dangerous thing is the indiscriminate use of pesticides by people, companies, or governments who don’t understand how they work and the harm they can do. If we could just remember one thing—that pesticides kill living things—I think we could go a long way toward more judicious use. After all, who of your best friends isn’t a living thing?