In the past few decades, the population of bees in the U.S. had been declining at a steady rate of 30 percent every year. This fact is far more significant to us than many might imagine – the bee plays a vital role in our ecosystem and, in fact, is largely responsible for regulating our food supply. Long story short, without bees, we would also have no apples, oranges, almonds, avocados … the list goes on.

There is no question about it – we have to be deadly serious about protecting the bee populations. Unfortunately, agriculture still uses a number of substances that are harmful to this priceless species.

Neonicotinoids are one of the most harmful to bees pesticides – they function by attacking the insect’s nervous system, which may lead to immediate death. Bees that survive become disoriented, can forget their way back to the hive. The substance also harms aquatic organisms supporting the health of rivers and lakes, is dangerous to birds, and may be harmful to people. Because of its harmful nature, the substance has already been banned in the European Union and taken off the shelves by many stores in the U.S.

By far, the most extensive use of insecticides in the U.S., is the practice of covering corn seeds with neonics. However, according to the new report published by the Center for Food Safety, this pervasive practice is, in fact, not at all needed to protect crops and corn productivity.

The report is the first to analyze the efficacy of covering corn seeds with this group of pesticides to shield crops against the most important target insects in the Corn Belt, as well as in other areas. What the report found is that there are viable alternatives to neonic coatings and in the vast majority of cases, farmers were able to avoid corn pests without the use of insecticides at all. The report finds that if neonic seed coating were restricted or completely eliminated, they would rarely be replaced with other insecticides. This is HUGE news!

Besides these fascinating findings, the report also shows the history of the use of neonic coatings, particularly the great increase in their use in the mid-2000s. It was found that there had been no real justification for that dramatic increase in prophylactic use of the substance. Instead, it is likely that to blame are the near monopoly on corn seed and pesticide sales and inadequate and inaccurate information about the risk from pests for farmers. Now, farmers, unfortunately, have little choice but to purchase coated seed – something that not only costs them more financially but also seriously threatens and harms the environment.

As consumers, though, we do have the power to change this. One of the most important things you can do to protect native bee species is to buy organic, local produce. If you have room for a garden, you can also stock up on bee-friendly plants that will help support the bees around your home. We can all work to protect the other pollinators in our areas – after all, we need them much more than they need us.

Image source: Peter Griffin/publicdomainpictures