Abby Guild is an intern with Environment Oregon this summer. She grew up in California but now lives in Portland as an undergraduate environmental studies student at Lewis & Clark College.
I was lucky enough to grow up in a home with a garden, chickens, beehives– the works. We grew tomatoes in the summertime and flowers in the spring, and I spent hours enjoying the butterflies, birds, and bees that visited year-round. Now when I visit my family, I still spend my afternoons in the garden and my evenings enjoying dinner made with homegrown vegetables. Growing our own food brings my family closer together and always reminds me that the greatest pleasures in life are often the simplest.
Now the pollinators that make it possible for any of us to grow and eat food are being attacked by chemicals that are used, especially a class of pesticides called neonicotinoids. Neonicotinoids, or neonics, are present in about 75 percent of all honey on earth and have been contributing to the diminishing of bee populations. They have been called “the new DDT killing the natural world,” and have been identified as a cause for killing bees and damaging their ability to reproduce. Along with habitat loss, climate change, and disease, pesticide use has contributed greatly to a decrease in pollinator populations. As of June 2021, the Bee Informed Partnership has reported the second highest bee loss in 15 years.
Bees aren’t the only organisms being harmed by pesticide use. Other pollinators, such as Monarch butterflies, are declining in population as neonicotinoids are responsible for the loss of millions of Monarch eggs and larvae every year. Birds, fish, and mammals such as deer, bears, raccoons, rodents, rabbits, and foxes are also being harmed by these pesticides.
This isn’t only a problem for kids that are missing the pollinators that visit their backyards. This is a threat to the health and diversity of our environment and our own human existence. We rely on pollinators just as much as the world’s flora does: Around 90 percent of wild plants and 75 percent of all food crops rely on animal pollinators to some extent. And as neonics create health problems for mammals, birds, and fish, they are also responsible for killing bees and making it difficult for them to reproduce.
Neonicotinoids are one of the most widely-used pesticides in the world, but despite their wide use some home and garden corporations are taking action and are stopping the sale of neonics in their stores. Amazon needs to jump on board and make a commitment to stop selling neonicotinoids, not only for the health of bees worldwide but so that the next generations can create the same fond memories that I made as a child, as made possible by pollinators.
To learn more about our campaign to Save the Bees, join us for “Planting for Pollinators” with Master Gardener Eric Butler on July 21st at 11 AM.