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When They're Gone

July 15, 2013 - Last week, 37 million dead bees were discovered on just one farm in Ontario, Canada.  Last month, 50,000 dead bees were found in a parking lot in Oregon.  Last winter, the British Beekeepers Association recorded the worst die-off in its history. According to the activist group SumOfUs.org, a commercial beekeeper in the United States lost 500 million bees, constituting 80% of all of his bees.  The numbers are fast becoming staggering, and the reason is no longer unknown.  Once again, big money wins, the rest of us - so far - lose.

Scientists now say there can no longer be any doubt.  Bees are dying all over the world, and there is a common thread that links all of their deaths: neonicotinoid pesticides.  While there is no doubt that harmful insects are effectively eradicated by neonics, the downside to their toxicity is the simultaneous elimination of beneficial insects - foremost among them, bees.  It is frightening but true that neonics are sold in local gardening stores.  You and your neighbors could well be using these dastardly chemicals on your tomatoes and roses.  In fact, taken all together, independent garden stores are the world's largest distributors of these substances!

One of the reasons for the deadliness of neonics is their longevity in soil and groundwater.  Neonics are made to be water soluble, which means that 90% of what is sprayed on crops washes off in the first rainstorm.  The chemical constituents in neonics break down very slowly and persist in nature for years.  Every time crops are sprayed and then resprayed, a buildup of neonics taints the soil and water.  Eighty percent of what is originally sprayed lasts until the following year.  Neonics ultimately find their way into the food chain, where, having already poisoned beneficial insects, they begin decimating birds.

Bonide is one of the largest manufacturers of neonicotinoids.  In August, they will be sponsoring The Independent Garden Center Show, in Chicago.  Their target audience will be independent garden store owners, all of whom will hear again and again why their stores should stock neonics.  You've heard the comparison before: just as Big Tobacco fought off the unwelcome facts about the relationship between tobacco and lung cancer, so are pesticide manufacturers denying any connection between their products and the eventual extinction of bees.  Bonide will herald the effectiveness of neonics in eliminating unwelcome insects in the hope that their customers will do likewise.

SumOfUs.org plans to fly beekeepers into Chicago so they can tell garden store owners the other side of the story.  They want to raise $30,000.00 in order to help beekeepers defray their travel expenses.  SumOfUs will advertise the presence of beekeepers at the garden show, and sponsor a press conference.  If beekeepers can convince independent store owners of the outright harm done by Bonide's product, it would be a serious blow to the manufacturer's integrity.  Even worse, once the independents boycott neonics, their will be enormous pressure brought to bear on the national retailers like Home Depot and Lowe's.

I love to hear bees buzzing in and amongst the catmint and purple loosestrife.  Do your part and donate to SumOfUs.org.

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