The Free Press, Mankato, MN


June 24, 2014

Pesticides threaten bee pollinating

Why it matters: Protecting bees is necessary to ensure an adequate supply of food can be produced economically.

A harsh winter killed off entire colonies of bees, driving up honey prices as shortages are expected this year.

It’s just the latest problem for the beleaguered pollinators. Bees have been dying off in alarming numbers in recent years. While scientists say things such as disease and climate change are contributing to the deaths, pesticides are increasingly seen as the main culprit.

Particularly neonicotinoids have been linked to the pollinators’ collapse. The new class of pesticides are the most widely used pesticide in the world.

The Obama administration recently appointed a new task force to produce a strategy within 180 days to stop the alarming decline of honeybees, butterflies and other pollinators.

The president also for the first time directed the Environmental Protection Agency to carry out research into the role of the new pesticides.

The move is overdue and many argue lacking in that it doesn’t call for a ban on neonicotinoids as the European Union has.

Meanwhile, Minnesota has taken a stand for the bees with two new laws. One prohibits labeling plants as beneficial to pollinators if the plants have been treated with a detectable level of pesticide. And another law creates a scientific panel to investigate bee deaths and compensate beekeepers whose hives are destroyed by pesticide use.

The law provide adequate protection for farmers or others who apply pesticide. Pesticide applicators only have to pay financial damages to beekeepers if it is determined they improperly applied the pesticide. If it is determined pesticide killed bees but was applied properly, a fund set up by the state would compensate beekeepers up to $20,000 each.

Those applying pesticides — be it farmers or homeowners — have a responsibility to use them correctly and without affecting neighboring property. Pesticides are best applied very early in the morning, or better yet very late in the day as bees are not foraging at the time. And if gardeners choose to use pesticides, they should resist using them when flowers are in bloom.

The alarming collapse of pollinators is not simply a problem for beekeepers or those who love honey. About one third of the food we all eat is dependent on pollinators. That’s why the search for improved pesticides and other measures to protect bees is so important.

Text Only | Photo Reprints