Let Me Tell You 'Bout the Birds and the Bees... and a Thing Called Neonics
February 6, 2014
The "Birds and the Bees" is an irritating song from the 1960s built upon the dreaded sex education discussion parents once had with their kids (well... not my parents). Apart from vaguely libidinal suggestions, the song hints at the connectedness of life and how we are all part of a larger whole.
I can't get that song out of my head in the wake of recent news and growing concerns over our widespread use of neonicotinoid pesticides -- or neonics for short. Bear with me.
While neonics are a relatively new class of insecticides, they have already become the most heavily used in the world, with growing application in agricultural systems (employed across an estimated 140 million acres in the U.S., not including garden use).
These are systemic chemicals, absorbed by the plants they are applied to. They are long-lasting as such chemicals go, and they persist in the soil and water. They bind strongly to insect neuron receptors, less strongly to bird neuron receptors, and even less to mammal neuron receptors.
Alas, it seems that it is in the complicated scientific and political arena of indirect effects where these neonics are causing serious problems for the birds and the bees. The recent and catastrophic decline of bees in the U.S. and Europe's so-called bee colony collapse disorder now appear to be the result of a virus attacking the bees' nervous system, which in turn has been weakened by wide exposure to neonics and other pesticides.
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