The Last Bee
by Kenda Swartz Pepper
She rested gently in his soft, young hand
In awe, he stared, at a smallness so grand.
What have we done? In earnest he pleaded.
They forgot, she whispered, how much we are needed.
But I don’t understand, he stuttered through tears.
You’re not to blame, she said, it’s been going on for years.
How can I help? His angst ever growing.
You cannot, she responded, it’s just too late for knowing.
You see, wisdom, too often, arrives too late.
People, long ago, determined my fate.
Sadly, some humans don’t see regarding toxicity.
A willful lack of insight results in complicity.
Be kind and wise, she tried to explain.
Please ensure that my species has not died in vain.
Will you think of me, I mean, after I depart?
He answered in silence, by way of broken heart.
She fell to her side, struggling to upright
The senseless poisons, winning the fight.
Fragility replaced a once lively existence.
There was no cure for her failing resistance.
Weakened and ailing, the bee acquiesced.
The child bargained and pleaded, trying his best.
One final buzz on delicate wings…
The last bee on earth no longer sings.
Neonicotinoids = Bee Deaths
There is evidence directly linking neonicotinoid pesticides to the honey bee decline known as colony collapse disorder. Yet we don’t know the full negative effect of these pesticides on our native bees, who are more efficient pollinators than honeybees. For example 7 mason bees can do the job of over 500 honey bees when it comes to pollinating one fruit tree. Because native bees are not kept commercially, we know their numbers are in decline, but we do not know to what extent. That is, we don’t know how dire the situation is until there are so few, they become endangered or have disappeared completely off the face of earth.
Recently researchers discovered that more than 700 wild bee species in North America are headed toward extinction — that’s more than half of the bee species tested. There are nearly 4000 native bees in North America and nearly 20% of them are going extinct. While the honey bee gets most of our attention, it’s time we shift our focus to these vital pollinators, our native bees. It may not yet have a name, but there is a Native Bee Collapse Disorder currently happening. In coming posts, I’ll share actions we can take to protect these precious beeings.
Right this very minute. Stop everything you’re doing and look out a window. Roughly 90% of all the plant life you see out there is courtesy of a pollinator, namely bees, butterflies, birds, and bats. About 35% of the food you eat is a result of pollinators, the most efficient beeing bees. If you like plants and food, it beehooves you to protect bees. Learn more about pollinators from my 2016 post Birds Do It, Bees Do It and learn nine extraordinary facts about North American’s native bees here.
While you’re doing all that learning, read more about the deleterious effects of neonicotinoids in my post WHO Gives a Damn About your Health and the Pollinators. Neonicotinoid bans are springing up all over the world, particularly in the EU. Canada, too, has announced plans to ban imidacloprid, the most widely used neonicotinoid. Eight out of ten provinces in Canada have banned pesticides for cosmetic purposes. But not here in the US. This is because our corporate sponsored government cares more about big business than your health. It’s been that way for decades. The exceptions are Maryland and Connecticut who had the cojones and environmental fortitude to take action and pass a restricted use ban.
Death Comes to the Monarch Butterfly
Monarch butterflies (you know I LOVE me some Monarchs) who have been on earth for 175 million years have declined 80% since the early 1990’s (right about the time of a dramatic increase in glyphosate when Monsanto began introducing genetically modified crops such as Roundup Ready corn and soybeans).
What was once 700 million Monarch butterflies is now 140 million.
Putting that into perspective:
If you compress the entire existence of butterflies into just my lifetime of 50 years, then this precipitous decline of 80% has occurred over the last 3 minutes and 45 seconds. This would be considered a crisis of colossal proportions, but because it’s been insidiously occurring over the last 25-27 years, slowly chipping away at the one of the most universally recognized and adored insects in the world and also a symbol of natural beauty, we are not reacting in kind. If we were to witness the decimation of 560 million butterflies in 3 minutes and 45 seconds, we would take note, and we would take action. This is a wake up call.
Cancer and Glyphosate
The word pesticide is an umbrella term for herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, and miticides. Keep in mind, the suffix –cide means a killer of. So when I say pesticides, it could be any of those chemicals. The synthetic pesticide glyphosate (found in Roundup as well as many other herbicides) is the most widely used pesticide in the world. A January 2016 study in the journal of Environmental Sciences Europe reveals that Americans have applied 1.8 million tons of glyphosate since its introduction in 1974.
Given that the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer unanimously determined glyphosate to be a probable carcinogenic to humans, that glyphosate is most definitely an endocrine disruptor (interferes with the proper functioning and production of hormones, in human cell lines), and that the use of glyphosate is absolutely attributable (future posts will discuss citizen scientists’ efforts to increase Monarch habitat and nectar sources) to the decline of Monarch butterflies, why are we still using this stuff?
But wait. There’s more!
Just this past March, an EPA scientist was busted for hiding and manipulating scientific documents linking glyphosate to serious health risks like on-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. According to Bloomberg, the scientist, “Jess Rowland, has become a central figure in more than 20 lawsuits in the U.S. accusing the company of failing to warn consumers and regulators of the risk that its glyphosate-based herbicide can cause non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.”
Here is a list of countries that banned glyphosate. The EU is making strides to protect the health of citizens and placed a ban on most neonicotinoids in 2013. France, surpassing the EU’s ban, will have a ban on all neonics by 2018. It looks like France will be added to the list of countries banning glyphosate as well.
In an interesting turn of events, Dow Chemical jumped on the Bayer and Monsanto #alternativefact bandwagon. Dow Chemical wants to place a gag on years worth of work by scientists who show, in over 10,000 pages of research, how three pesticides – chlorpyrifos, diazinon and malathion – pose a series risk to nearly every endangered species studied. This on the heels of our nation’s greatest anti-scientist, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, reversing an Obama-era effort to put the kibosh on chlorpyrifos despite the fact that even in small amounts, this pesticide is shown to negatively impact a child’s brain development. See a list of lawn and golf products that contain chlorpyrifos.
The CEO and chairman of Dow Chemical is a close advisor to Trump.
Your Perfect Yard
Since we cannot rely on our governments (federal or state, unless you live in Maryland, Connecticut or places like these PNW cities or Maharishi Vedic City, Iowa, America’s first organic city) to do the right thing in municipalities or with Big Ag, we have to step up as individuals to take action for biodiversity, for life.
See the map from Beyond Pesticides showing which municipalities have placed a pesticides ban.
Homeowners are long overdue to discontinue using of synthetic pesticides. Pesticides are petrochemicals that have been designed to kill life and are unnecessary. Your perfect yard is not perfect if it is sterile and lifeless. It is not perfect if it makes your family sick, changes your child’s brain chemistry, and creates toxic runoff into the nearest waterway. It is not perfect if your dog cannot walk on it without the risk of 1) dragging the toxins inside your house or 2) becoming the next victim of the growing number of companion animals dying from cancer.
So, please, if you partake, just stop.
We need insects – even those we don’t like so much – to create the necessary biodiversity to maintain the incredible and miraculous circle of life. If that ecosystem goes, so go humans. This is not melodrama. It is real. If this seems like a word-smack across the top of your head, it’s because I’m fired up.
Today, you can thank a pollinator for the free service she offers you by ending your relationship with synthetic pesticides. Check out organic options here. You can expect to hear more about this, because I’m on a mission, people.
On March 27, I along with about 13 other Southern Oregonians went to Salem to present testimonies to the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources in support of Beyond Toxics’ bill the Oregon Pollinator Protection Act. It died on committee floor on April 17 – Monday of Earth Day week. Why? Because industry has a lot of money and power. Because certain farmers and ranchers and government leaders are short-sighted. Chances are, bees won’t disappear during their lives, so they can protect their toxic investments without too much concern. But for those of us who care about future generations and things like food? There’s a lot of truth to the expression, Ignorance is Bliss. But ignorance does not solve problems. We will take a stand for earth justice and continue the good fight, because every day is earth day.
“You will probably more than once have seen her fluttering about the bushes, in a deserted corner of your garden, without realising that you were carelessly watching the venerable ancestor to whom we probably owe most of our flowers and fruits (for it is actually estimated that more than a hundred thousand varieties of plants would disappear if the bees did not visit them), and possibly even our civilisation, for in these mysteries all things intertwine.”
~ Maurice Maeterlinck,
Author The Life of the Bee, Nobel Prize in Literature in 1911.