In a sincere and well-justified concern about collapse of honeybee colonies, it appears there may have been an unwarranted rush to judgment about a widely used agricultural chemical.
A team of researchers from Washington State University reported this month that neonicotinoid pesticides — sometimes called neonics and chemically similar to nicotine — pose little risk to bees in real-world settings. Imidacloprid, one type of neonic, is the most popular insecticide in the world. It clearly can kill bees. But WSU scientists found bees aren’t exposed to enough of the pesticide to cause any harmful effects in rural and urban landscapes. Even in active farm settings, bees face very low risks so long as users follow label instructions. For example, insecticides should not be used during plant flowering stages when bees are likely to be foraging.
In our area, political posturing over neonics has stymied efforts by oyster growers to use them to control burrowing shrimp. Though it’s obviously desirable to minimize pesticide use, imidacloprid is a huge improvement over the previous shrimp-control method.
Decisions about agricultural and aquaculture must be based on facts, not folklore. While we strive to minimize negative impacts on the environment, we must bear in mind that terrestrial and aquatic farmers are the best stewards among us.