Less Spray Please! Bees at Work
Word is spreading about the “insect apocalypse”. One recent review of global studies indicate that over 40% of known species are in drastic decline. This represents the loss of creatures that are not only beautiful and complex in their own right, but who also play hugely important roles in ecological food chains and as pollinators.
Insects are a crucial part of Earth’s biodiversity - the web of life that has evolved over billions of years, and upon which all of our lives depend.
"If we were coal miners, we would be up to our knees in dead canaries." - Michael D. Higgins, President of Ireland
Why write about this here? Well, I live in Uki (northern NSW, Australia), and a couple of weeks ago my bees died. Clues indicate that it happened due to poisoning, most likely as a result of the use of certain pesticides on a garden or farm nearby. (Honeybees forage over an area a few kilometres across.) It was terrible to see them dead and dying all around the hive… And the sight made me wonder how many other species in our region are suffering as a result of poison use.
In recent years the EU, USA and Canada have banned or limited a class of insecticides known as ‘neonicotinoids’, based on scientific concern around their effect on bees and other pollinators. However, they are still the most widely used pesticides in Australia.
If you’ve got unwanted critters in your garden or farm, there are several ways to deal with them other than using harmful pesticides. Alternatives include strengthening the health of your soil, and/or using organic pest treatments. However, if you are going to use pesticides, please bear the following in mind:
- Choose carefully: Not all insecticides are created equally - some are more harmful to pollinators than others. If you feel that you need to use a pesticide, please try to steer clear of nicotinoids, fipronil, and synthetic pyrethroids. Do some research online to see which ones are less damaging.
- Time your application carefully: If at all possible, don’t treat plants while they’re in bloom. Evening is a better time to spray so that bees are less likely to encounter the chemical until the following day. It’s also recommended not to apply pesticides during windy or wet conditions, in order to avoid drift.
- Give Nature some space: A great way to help pollinators is by leaving areas of your yard or farm fallow, and allow for wild edges alongside cultivation.
Niall Fahy is our Strategy Manager and has been a beekeeper for two years.