Do you like berries, grapes or watermelon? How about squash, sweet potatoes or lettuce? These tasty foods, along with countless others, are just a small fraction of what the pollinators are responsible for producing. Bees, butterflies, flies, ants, birds and more small, but hardworking, creatures are responsible for over 100 crops that feed 90% of the human population. That’s extremely impressive for such small animals!
Unfortunately our lovely laborers currently face a crisis of extinction. According to the US Agriculture Statistics, in 1947 there were 6 million hives in the US and in 2006 there were only 2.7 million. That’s more than a 60% decline. And that’s just 2006. The Bee Informed Partnership states that from October 2018 to April 2019, about 38% of the hives died. These statistics are direful and are in crucial need of reversal.
Toxic pesticides play a large role in the pollinators low census. Just like inhaling or drinking poison would end human life, many pesticides kill pollinators. Biologists have found over 150 chemicals that are harmful for pollinator survival. The main one is neonicotinoids ("neonics"), that take a huge toll on the pollinators nervous system. The European Union has already banned many insectoids, including neonics, to help save the bees. It’s our turn now.
Increasingly, sciences is showing that neonics’ impacts are not just a bee issue, but a major player in the broader biodiversity crisis. Neonics are highly toxic, persistent, and all over the environment. The popular pesticides have been linked to harms to native pollinators and insects, fish, birds, deer, bats, aquatic ecosystems, and other wildlife as well as widespread soil and water contamination.
Habitat loss is another reason why the pollinators are declining. Losing shelter and your source of food unbearable for any species, whether it’s a human or a pollinator. Since more green lands and flower fields are being taken away for infrastructure, road ways, manicured lands and unnatural gardens, the pollinators are losing their homes and sources of pollen!
Catskill Mountainkeeper is fighting with a coalition of organizations, including the Natural Resources Defense Council, to save our pollinators, to not only help these small, hard workers, but also maintain a strong economy, promote public health and spare the lives of many other animals (including humans) who rely on the food the pollinators help create. Catskill Mountainkeeper supports the Birds and Bees Protection Act, which will temporarily prohibit neonicotinoids for five years and creates a strategy for pollinator friendly lands. In these five years, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation can study and compare the impact neonicotinoids have on bees, as well as make decisions on what to do to help the bees moving forward.
By Michelle Moczulski