Saving the Urban Honey Bees and Pollinators of Illinois

July 24, 2013



The University of Illinois Tri-County Extension office


By Farm and Extension News


It turns out honey bee colony collapse and the decline of Illinois  pollinators cannot be solely blamed on pesticide use according to a Federal  study that was just released. Instead there is a complex interaction of  environment and genetics involved. A recent federal study exploring the causes  of colony collapse disorder has found that a combination of virus, parasites,  poor nutrition and lack of genetic diversity to be the cause of the increasing  loss of honey bee hives. The study involved University of Illinois entomologist,  May R. Berembaum and many of her colleagues in the world of honey bee/pollinator  research.


However pesticides are not completely eliminated from the  equation. It is when the bees are weakened from the environmental and genetic  stresses that they become even more susceptible to pesticide exposure. Berembaum  did find hundreds of chemicals in dead bees and recommends a broad approach to  solving issues for honey bees and pollinator health.


This study was  released just days after the European commission voted to impose a ban on  neonicotinoids — thiamethoxam, clothianidin and imidacloprid — in response to  environmental campaigners. They stated neonicotinoids posed unacceptable risk to  bees. Neonicotinoids are the world’s most widely used pesticides because of  their effectiveness and human safety factor. Thiamethoxam and clothianidin are  used for seed treatments of agricultural crops where the pesticide protects the  plant from the inside out rather as opposed to using the sprays of the past.  Imidacloprid is commonly used by homeowners and fruit and vegetable producers to  fend off pests like aphids, borers and Japanese beetles. Neonicotinoids have  replaced organophosphates, carbamates and pyrethroids, that also harm honey bees  and pollinators. According to the study, pyrethroid could pose three times  greater risk to honey bees than the systemic treatments with  neonicatinoids.


In conclusion, solving the honey bee and pollinator  crisis most likely will not be solved with a ban on neonicatinoid pesticides.  Other deficiencies noted in the study could be addressed by homeowners and  members of our communities by planting pollinator plants and conserving native  pollinators and feral bees. Most believe we all have a responsibility to  pollinators and the honey bees because they are so vital to the fruit and  vegetable industries. Homeowners can:

·   Fend off garden and  landscape pests without chemicals

·   Plant a diverse mix of  native perennials, herbs and flowering annuals

·   Be more  accepting of weeds

·   Limit spraying on windy  days

·   Do not treat flowering plants with  pesticides

·   Call local bee keepers to remove feral hives

·   Become local bee keepers  themselves

·   Spread the word

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