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Want to keep honeybees? Don’t use pesticides


U.S. retailers want to limit or totally eliminate the use of pesticides so as to help honeybees. Most U.S. companies and Home Depot are looking to limit or eliminate use of a type of pesticide called neonics which they suspect to help decrease honeybee populations. Honeybees are needed to pollinate key American crops.

Neonics or neonicotinoids are chemically similar to nicotine (nicotine can also act as an insecticide). The family of neonicotinoids includes imidacloprid, nitenpyram, nithiazine and thiacloprid among others. Imidacloprid is the one that is mostly used in the world today as an insecticide.

As early as 2000, some of these chemicals were already under scrutiny over their potential environmental impacts. Several studies linked the use of neonicotinoids to a number of serious ecological effects including honeybee colony collapse disorder.

This week the Task Force on Systemic Pesticides released an analysis of 800 peer-reviewed studies which concluded that neonicotinoids play a major role in bee declines and had other harmful effects on the environment.

Beekeepers, consumer groups Scientists and other stakeholders say bee deaths are linked to the neonic pesticides. But other agrichemical companies including Bayer and Monsanto say a mix of factors such as mites are responsible for the bee deaths.

Neonics are sold by agrichemical companies to boost yields of staple crops such as corn. They are also used on annual and perennial plants used in lawns and gardens.

The moves will also require suppliers to label any plants treated with neonic or neonicotinoid pesticides which are sold through home and garden stores.

The world’s largest home improvement retailer, the Atlanta-based Home Depot, requires its suppliers to start labeling by the fourth quarter of this year. Ron Jarvis, the company’s vice president of merchandising said Home Depot is running tests in several states to find out whether suppliers can eliminate these pesticides in their plant production without adverse effects on the plant health.

“The Home Depot is deeply engaged in understanding the relationship of the use of certain insecticides on our live goods and the decline in the honeybee population,” Jarvis said.

And on Wednesday, BJ’s Wholesale Club also said it was requiring all of its retailers to label plants treated with neonics or to provide plants that are free of neonics by the end of this year. BJ’s Wholesale Club is a warehouse retailer with more than 200 stores along the East Coast.

There are more than 10 smaller retailers, with stores in Colorado Minnesota, California and Maryland that have also announced plans to eliminate or limit neonicotinoids from their plant products.

According to a report issued by an environmental group called Friends of the Earth, over 50 percent of plant samples from leading garden retailers in the U.S. and Canada contained these unwanted pesticides.

The United States Department of Agriculture puts total losses of managed honeybee colonies at approximately 23 percent over the winter of 2013/2014.

The White House announced on Wednesday that a plan was underway to form a task force to study how to reverse the honeybee declines and to fund new honeybee habitats. The honeybee death is a matter of concern for agriculturists since the bees pollinate plants that produce about a quarter of the food consumed in America.

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