Neonicotinoid Pesticides Are Killing The Bees

In Northern California, butterflies have been mysteriously disappearing for decades.

According to new research published in Biology Letters, there's even more proof that the butterflies aren't just disappearing because land-use and the climate changing - they're disappearing because humans are killing them with neonicotinoid pesticide use.

The research team - lead by Professor Matthew Forister from the University of Nevada - looked at 40 years of data to separate the different factors that correlate with the declining butterfly population.

The authors found that the butterfly population in Northern California made it a biodiversity hotspot - but that populations have been in decline since the late 1990s without any correlation to recent temperature or land-use changes.

But the decline lines up neatly with the increase use of neonicotinoids - which were first used in 1995 in Northern California.


poinidaho69@hot... 6 years 41 weeks ago

Hello Professor!

Well, Tom, you hit just about ALL my buttons with this introductory topic today. Although I don't live there anymore, I am a 4th generation northern Californian (also born in 1951) who noticed the sad decline of the Monarchs, in particular, before I left California in 1996. I am also the Design and Production Manager for The Natural Areas Journal published by a 501(C3) non-profit organization called the Natural Areas Association (NAA) - an organization formed in 1978 that includes professionals in the various interrelated fields as well as volunteers working as government and NGO land and resource managers, biologists, ecologists, naturalists, researchers, land trusts, educators and students, and others who care about environmental conservation and the management of natural areas. We address and focus on research, issues and opportunities that are shaping land protection and land management in the natural areas field, academia, or conservation in our academic, scholarly, international flagship publication. I am currently in the final throws of finishing a very special issue of our Journal - a first for us - that will come out the end of September that is being sponsored by the US Forest Service and is completely dedicated to "Pollinators." I also do technical editing for The Journal, which means before I can do the fun "artsy" layout and design of each article, I read it for technical and formatting issues. This issue has been an incredible eye-opener for me in terms of how so much of what we do impacts and relates to pollinators ... I tend to think immediately of bees and butterflies, but there are others.

In conjunction with climate change, the use of vast arrays of chemicals we pour onto the land (whether farm or orchard crops, pasturelands, forests, streams, or roadsides – rural or urban), our practices have impacted species in so many complex, multi-faceted ways that we need to think 'outside the box' for solutions to the catastrophic problems we've created. We also need to think in multi-faceted terms about our solutions – but up until now, we have really only been addressing the problems, each as it presents itself, as 'single-issues' much like the way we farm in neat, tidy, sterile mono-cropped rows: we don't seem to be comfortable with diversity, or at least, it doesn't seem to come naturally! Yet, diverse thinking really is key to the answers we so desperately need for these VERY complex issues we've created (and, I'm afraid, at a level of complexity very few of us really appreciate or even understand - and, even the professionals in the fields are just learning this!).

When we look at the looming extinction of a species, we tend to think in terms of 'oh my gosh - I have to go save a whale or a spotted owl!' rather than, 'what are the other factors impacting the species and also causing problems in tandem AND what can I do to change THOSE things that would actually make a difference, rather than running out and building a big tank to drop a whale into so I can "save" it' and maybe one or two others ... or chain myself to a tree to keep it from being cut down to save an owl's home! We think of extinction almost on a ‘one-of or two-of’ type issue.... again, we need to be thinking in extreme diversity and complexity! … just like nature herself.

In the case of bees and butterflies that migrate, we have just begun to look at the ways our specific targeting of let's say an eyesore weed to kill (i.e., milkweed, for example) has decreased the ready supply of food (pollen) that is a particular, favored plant. Combine it with another externality, climate change, and you remove the majority of the plants from existence by having sprayed with toxic chemicals; now you have a more toxic plant that is trying to migrate itself to outside a given geographic territory to survive the onslaught, if it can (some can't!) AND blooming and producing pollen for our pollinators a few weeks too early or too late. So, you have not only REMOVED the food source from the food chain in general (and our bees and butterflies, specifically), you have made what smaller amounts of that food source that still DO remain, toxic, and to add insult to injury, climate change has caused those few remaining, somewhat toxic plants to bloom earlier than usual ... they are now no longer in sync with any migrating pollinators. Some of those pollinators who come along to feed and, in the process, help the plants migrate into a geographic region more suitable to their preferred climate (the ’new’ normal), won't be there when they need to be... even MORE die off of the plant in question, which will cause more loss of pollinators who benefit from the plants being there and blooming at a given, critical time. A vicious circle has just been created … but, weren't we talking about bees and butterflies?

If you are on a path to save Monarchs, for example, you can obtain a little kit and put a dozen in your garden and watch them form cocoons and hatch out and you have 'saved a few Monarchs from extinction' - a temporary but delightful, educational experience for us all, but especially for children. I mean, let's face it: who among us doesn't LOVE watching a fuzzy wuzzy caterpillar crawling around or a glorious butterfly landing on your nose! When that same dozen Monarchs, ones you raise .... your babies from your garden, head out into the bigger, wider world to join larger migrations, they are going to find that their favorite foods, like the above milkweed example, have been destroyed to 'get rid of those pesky, ugly old weeds' and the few who survived that onslaught are now toxically blooming a few weeks ahead of schedule. So, by the time your Monarch babies arrive, there isn't any food for them to continue their migration and they die enroute! We don't think in complex, multi-faceted terms, that might view that 'ugly weed' as something a little more valuable than just an eyesore to us humans… but it obviously means everything to those Monarchs! Everything we do from building a dam, a town, a road, a subdivision, or even a single building... down to picking a flower, cutting a tree, or walking on the few native Prairie grasses remaining, has an effect. Thinking about our actions gives new meaning to “the Butterfly Effect!”

If you can spare the time, I’d love to see a plug for our journal – and newsletter – and website - memberships are available and quite affordable, too! If you’d like to learn more, anyone can purchase this upcoming special issue by contacting NAA headquarters at, calling 541-317-0199, or writing to NAA, 115 NW Oregon Ave., Suite 114, Bend, Oregon 97701. It is DEFINITELY supporting not only a 'good' cause, but one vital to our survival.

Thanks for all you do, Tom. I never miss your shows .... :-)

Pam Overholtzer, Moscow Idaho

Scotty11 6 years 41 weeks ago
#2 need to add Pam to your 'team' of technical advisors.

I will be contacting NAA to get a copy of the special issue that she mentions.

stecoop01's picture
stecoop01 6 years 40 weeks ago

As go the bees and the butterflies, so go humanity.

hemlockone's picture
hemlockone 6 years 40 weeks ago

It is the misuse and overuse of the neonics which is causing the problems. Neonics are overused and misused by factory farms, lawn care companies and gardeners causing not only bees but humans to ingest them. Neonics, however, should still be allowed for specific uses. I have worked to save many an eastern hemlock from the wooly adegid infestation that is devastating our hemlock forests. Hemlocks create an entire ecosystem and the loss of the hemlocks means the loss of that entire ecosystem and stream hydrology. Long-term, bio options will be the most beneficial but for now, many of our most prized hemlocks are only still standing because of neonics like imidacloprid.

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