The proof is buzzingly more apparent that neonicotinoids, pesticides similar to nicotine, are responsible for killing off the bees (and other insects as well). Summarizing some of the major research on the topic to date, Terrence McCoy of the Washington Post explains how major this issue really is. Quoting one of these researchers, McCoy writes:
The evidence is very clear,” Jean-Marc Bonmatin, of France’s National Center for Scientific Research, told the Guardian. “We are witnessing a threat to the productivity of our natural and farmed environment equivalent to that posed by organophosphates or DDT. From protecting food production, the use of neonicotinoid insecticides is threatening the very infrastructure which enables it.”
While it is certainly sad to see any part of our ecosystem struggle, it may be difficult to fully grasp that by definition, a disruption in the ecosystem inevitably affects everything in that system, including us. Using the example of colony collapse to illustrate this point at a large scale, Mark Winston wrote an important Op-Ed this week in The New York Times explaining that all of the seemingly little things with a negative effect on our world can coalesce into gigantic problems. Winston writes:
The real issue, though, is not the volume of problems, but the interactions among them. Here we find a core lesson from the bees that we ignore at our peril: the concept of synergy, where one plus one equals three, or four, or more. A typical honeybee colony contains residue from more than 120 pesticides. Alone, each represents a benign dose. But together they form a toxic soup of chemicals whose interplay can substantially reduce the effectiveness of bees’ immune systems, making them more susceptible to diseases.”
Winston also muses on how our goals should go well beyond that.
There is a lesson in the decline of bees about how to respond to the most fundamental challenges facing contemporary human societies. We can best meet our own needs if we maintain a balance with nature — a balance that is as important to our health and prosperity as it is to the bees."
PHOTO: Theophilus Photography, Creative Commons