Considering the critical roles both bats and honeybees play in our environment, our economics, and our agriculture, it’s worth taking a moment to catch up on these wonderful creatures. Bats eat bugs that eat our crops and spread diseases—like West Nile Virus. Honeybees pollinate our flowers and crops—like apples. Bat populations are being decimated by White-Nose Syndrome and honeybees are also collapsing because of Colony Collapse Disorder. We know that both these species are in trouble by their diseases, but what seems to have clouded the information and hence the saving of both bats and bees is the role pesticides are playing in their demise—if any. However, both of these issues have gone on for some time now with little progress and we have to wonder if it is due to the possible role of pesticides:
- Controversy Deepens Over Pesticides and Bee Collapse A controversial new study of honeybee deaths has deepened a bitter dispute over whether the developed world’s most popular pesticides are causing an ecological catastrophe. Researchers led by biologist Chensheng Lu of Harvard University report a direct link between hive health and dietary exposure to imidacloprid, a so-called neonicotinoid pesticide linked to colony collapse disorder, the mysterious and massive die-off of bees across North America and Europe. (April 6, 2012) Wired Science - News for Your Neurons | Wired.com
- Behind Mass Die-Offs, Pesticides Lurk as Culprit by Sonia Shah: Yale Environment 360 “In the past dozen years, no fewer than three never-before-seen diseases have decimated populations of amphibians, bees, and — most recently — bats. A growing body of evidence indicates that pesticide exposure may be playing an important role in the decline of the first two species, and scientists are investigating whether such exposures may be involved in the deaths of more than 1 million bats in the northeastern United States over the past several years.” (January 2010) Yale Environment 360: Opinion, Analysis, Reporting & Debate
What makes saving our honeybees and bats so difficult is the interaction of politics, science, law, the pesticide industry, and the media. The science is problematic because industry does not want its pesticides associated with or even collaterally connected to these diseases even when using their products properly. But it’s often very hard to tell what happens when toxic chemicals (let’s face it pesticides kill pests) radiate out into our environment, which in turn sows doubt in the courts and in the media. Cause and effect are hard to determine after tons of these toxins are released into our air, land, and soil.
Also, concern over the use of pesticides to manage our crops and control potential pests that compromise our public health is linked with Climate Change. As our growing season lengthens in New York State because of warming, the length of survival for the pests, both indigenous and invasive, will increase. And our inclination will be to dump more pesticides and herbicides to protect our way of life.
On bats: You can find the latest news and information on White-Nose Syndrome in bats here: White-Nose Syndrome - U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and check out this latest study DEC Reports: 2012 Winter Bat Survey Results - NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation.
On bees: Check with the EPA: Honeybee colony collapse disorder | Pesticides | US EPA