You have most likely heard of the sad story of honeybees across the world and especially here in the United States – their populations are declining at a rapid rate. Aside from the tragedy of losing such a magnificent animal, the honeybee decline and possible extinction has dire consequences for humans and other animals and ecosystems. Bees are natural pollinators for many of the world’s fruits and vegetables, and losing them would mean a significant loss in food supply for us. This has led scientists on a quest to find the culprit causing populations of this valuable pollinator to dwindle.
Research has suggested that the largest contributor to such a significant loss of honeybees has been a group of pesticides known as neonicotinoids. This class of pesticides targets insects and affects their central nervous systems, causing paralysis and death, according to BeyondPesticides.org. While it has been suggested by scientists and environmentalists that these pesticides harm pollinators, we are still not sure that this is the cause for the recent honeybee decline.
However, although there is a growing body of evidence from both sides of the argument, it is a time-sensitive issue. Research and potential solutions are needed at this time to determine if these chemicals really do pose a major threat to pollinators as honeybees are responsible for pollinating $15 billion of U.S. crops per year, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.
While it is possible that neonicotinoids are not harming honeybee populations as much as has been suggested, it would be best to find out for sure sooner rather than later. However, a recent bill, Assembly Bill 1789, gives the California Department of Pesticide Regulation until 2018 to determine whether neonicotinoids are responsible for the decline in honeybee populations, which is a three year delay as the deadline originally proposed for this bill was July 1st, 2015. The department then has another two years to enact control measures based on the findings. The bill itself says that from 2006 to 2011, average annual losses of honeybees were 33%, which should be enough to warrant keeping a tighter deadline for identifying and solving the problem.
Other factors that are contributing to the honeybee decline include climate change, loss of habitat, and lack of water. California’s severe draught has had dire effects on our honeybees as well. Less water for the bees themselves and less water for the plants they pollinate, yielding less nectar, have become major causes for concern for California’s agricultural market.
While we are still not positive of all the contributing factors to the honeybee decline, we should be acting more quickly now. If neonicotinoids are to blame for declining populations, another four to six years may prove to be too long a wait to help save our honeybees.