Bees are considered to be the most important insects on our planet. They are one of the most integral parts in our ecosystem, as they help pollinate plants and create new life. This in turn oxygenates the air and clears out dangerous pollutants.
Without the hard-working bees, plants will face difficulties to pollinate, and it will eventually lead to issues with air quality. Namely, as they won’t be able to grow and create new plants and trees, plants and trees won’t be able to absorb toxins in the air and produce oxygen.
Pollination is vital to our agricultural system. Ten years ago, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, or the FAO, estimated that out of 100 crop species that provide 90 percent of food supplies for 146 countries, 71 of them are bee-pollinated.
Farmers often rent bees to boost their yields and increase pollination. Therefore, their decline would affect the yield of all plants pollinated by bees and animals that eat them, as well as honey and honey-dependent products.
Due to the importance of bees and the alarming decline in their populations, in 2018, France placed a strict ban on the use of all neonicotinoid insecticides used to repel bugs on farms.
In the 1990s, the toxic insecticides that harmed both, animals and humans, were replaced by these synthetic neonicotinoids. They imitate the structure and effect of nicotine and are relatively low-risk for non-target organisms.
The chemicals attack the insects’ central nervous system and have been used to protect flowering trees and other crops, such as fruit trees, beets and vineyards.
However, researchers have discovered that neonicotinoids may be the main culprits for a phenomenon called “Colony Collapse Disorder” in bee colonies worldwide, leading to the deaths of numerous bees.
Moreover, some reports indicated that the chemicals have also harmed the environment. Neonicotinoids are highly soluble in water, so if they enter bodies of water, they might threaten aquatic animals as well.
Three of these insecticides, clothianidin, imidacloprid, and thiamethoxam, have already been banned by the European Union. As of December 19, 2018, France banned the remaining two chemicals as well, thiacloprid and acetamiprid, for use in outdoor crop fields and greenhouses.
A colony collapse disorder is an abnormal situation in a bee colony. In this case, most of the worker bees vanish, and the queen and a handful of nurses are left to alone take care for the immature bees.
Bees can get dangerously addicted to these chemicals. Their use can lead to several disorders in a colony like low sperm count in the male bees, declines reproduction rates, memory loss, and the loss of homing skills among the worker bees.
In turn, bees leave their hives and don’t remember the way back, which eventually causes the total collapse of colonies and mortality of the insects.
Yet, while this move pleased environmentalists, cereal and sugar beet farmers are not that happy. They claim that in case insecticides are banned, they have nothing to defend their crops with.
Fédération Nationale des Syndicats D’exploitants Agricoles (FNSEA) which is France’s biggest farming union, argues that farmers will face a “dramatic technical dead-end”, as the ban would “exacerbate unfair competition with European and non-European producers.”
Contrarily, bee farmers ask for a ban of more insecticides and chemical compounds, as over time, they will have to face the threat from some other harmful product.
Fabien Van Hoecke, a beekeeper in Saint-Aloué in Brittany, claims that “there are pesticides all over the place”, so even though the ban was “a good thing, it won’t save us,” as they will be “replaced by others”.
In contrast, President Trump put an end of the Obama-era policy that had banned the use of these pesticides near national wildlife refuges, and allowed farmers to use them in otherwise protected regions with limited oversight.