Silent Spring 2

I have just finished reading Dave Goulson’s – A Buzz in the Meadow. Goulson is Professor of Biology (Evolution, Behaviour and Environment) at the University of Sussex in the UK. He has completed many years of bee research and is a strong advocate of bumblebee conservation and founder of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust in the UK. This is Goulson’s second book, the first was A Sting in the Tail.

In a Buzz in the Meadow Goulson tells us about the fascinating life of insects. He takes as his starting point Chez Nauche, a farm in the heart of rural France, that he bought in 2003. Goulson has been managing the farm in such as way  as to encourage wildlife, with of course an emphasis on insects.

Goulson’s style is entertaining and informative. However, by the time he gets to Part III of his book the reading gets depressing. Goulson tells us about some of the experiments he and his colleagues carried out on bumblebees and the effect of chemicals known as neonicotinoids (neonics for short). Goulson refers to Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring and wonders if neonics are todays DDT.

Neonics are the worlds most widely used insecticide. Crop seeds are coated in the neonics and the germinating plant absorbs the chemicals, which then spread throughout the plant. Any insects eating any part of the plant dies. Neonics affect the nervous system and brain. It was Goulson and other researchers from France that proved that the neonics were affecting the bees ability to find their hives (the toxins appear to mess up their navigational system) and hence implicated neonics in Bee Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). Goulson outlines how little we know about these chemical and how they affect insects and other animals. The fact that the chemical will last for up to four decades in the soil is worrying enough, and should ring alarm bells. In addition, by volume neonics are 10,000 times more powerful as DDT.

There was a great article in the UK’s  Guardian Newspaper which goes into more details than I will here and I encourage everyone to read it.

Currently in the EU there is a two year ban on the use of certain neonics, it is essential that this is widened. In the USA, the EPA Administrator has just opened a public consultation period on the use of neonics. I encourage everyone (whether US citizen or not) to have their say. You can do so at this AVAAZ link.  Global neonic sales, according to Goulson, are thought to be worth $3.5 billion, so it is going to take a lot of people power to get them banned.

And a word of warning. Neonics are present in over- the-counter products you can buy from your garden centre. In my opinion, insecticides have no place in a garden. The garden chemicals won’t be labeled as containing neonics so surely it is better to avoid them altogether!

Hoverfly

Hoverfly

A Buzz in the Meadow is essential reading for everyone.

 

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48 thoughts on “Silent Spring 2

  1. Lena

    All about the money 😦 Really sad and I saw a program about bee’s for hire and the deceaces they can get which natural bee’s can cope with. And that the beefarms knock out the natural living one’s. It is never a good thing to mix with nature I believe.

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  2. Jane

    Perhaps Obama will do what he can before he leaves? Catastrophic – there’s no other word for it; profiteering is the only reason. Signed Avaaz and will read the book.

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    1. Murtagh's Meadow Post author

      We all need to do what we can. Grow flowers in our own gardens if we can and lobby the politicians to do more before it is too late.

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  3. Robbie

    I have not been on line as much since last fall but I have been stopping by my favorite blogs and yours is one of them!:-) I love all your photos + your passion for nature. I just watched a TED talk last night on why bees are disapperaing -by Marla Spivak. I wanted to write a post next week about not using pesticides. She talked about neonicotinoids specifically- + boy they are nasty!!! What a great post and as always-you do a great job:-)
    I now check to see if the nursery where I purchase plants use these on their plants. They do list “neonicotinoid free” plants now in USA some nurseries. It is such a serious problem. I read the article you directed us to and it is scary:-(

    ALL the big box store garden centers in America ( home depot, lowes etc) have these on their plants. They have been warning people for years not to purchase these plants and put them in your garden. Your article said-even if they leave the soil it goes to the rivers etc…who knows what damage they will do to the water….GREAT POST-thank you for posting and educating + I will look and see if I can find his book.

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    1. Murtagh's Meadow Post author

      So nice to hear from you Robbie. It’s interesting that the plant nurseries are beginning to sell “neonic free” plants. Everyone needs to ask questions when they buy their plants and don’t forget your garden seeds too! Some of these could be coated with neonics too. And yes the big worry is that these chemicals stay in the soil for decades and are continually brought into the plants even if they were not the original target!

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    1. Murtagh's Meadow Post author

      And not just bees. Insects are vital for so much we take for granted – like the breakdown of organic waste and healthy soils, to mention just a couple

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  4. Julie

    Great post – Last July the UK government alarmingly relaxed the laws on neonics for some rapeseed crops. The current two year temporary ban was supposed to be reviewed in December just gone – not sure what stage this review is at. And recently I read an article by Dave Goulson who reported there is evidence that 5-10% of the chemical remains in the sprayed agricultural crop the remainder 90% is leached into the soil and into the surrounding wildflower strip and hawthorn hedging, making these areas just as toxic to Bees and other pollinators. I worry too about the lack of legislation covering ornamental plants sold as Plants for Pollinators also being contaminated. We have a great deal to answer for in the destruction of our natural world.

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    1. Murtagh's Meadow Post author

      Like you Julie I worry about these chemicals getting to the natural systems like the hedgerows – they could remain here for 40 years. Goulson also mentions that some trees (particularly limes) are being injected with neonics in our towns and cities, and golf courses are being treated with neonic granules. These toxins are going to get everywhere if we don’t stop this madness now.

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    1. Murtagh's Meadow Post author

      Must look out for that book. You are right though the whole issue is scary – to think we could be doing this to our environment again!

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  5. cricketmuse

    I miss the mass of bees that merrily buzzed about my lavender. There has been a decline each year. Quite worrisome. I believe Einstein once said that we would fall as a species if they bee fell as a species.

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    1. Murtagh's Meadow Post author

      Some bee species have become extinct and this is what we face more of in the future if we keep using these and other insecticides.

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  6. gaiainaction

    Thank you for highlighting this very worrying trend of using the Neonics. How little thought is put into the use of these chemicals, surely it should be known by now that there are dangers attached to using chemical. Thank you also for the links in your article, I will follow some of them up, and would like to read the book also by Goulson.

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    1. Murtagh's Meadow Post author

      You think we would learn wouldn’t you but it looks like DDT all over again only with more potent chemicals! I would highly recommend both of Goulson’s books:)

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  7. Lori Fontanes

    We’re presenting a healthy yard event here in NY today–trying to help people learn how to switch to more natural methods. It’s a huge culture shift in suburbia because we have been doing the “spray it away” method for so many years. Wish us luck!!!

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  8. Pingback: Neonicotinoid Update | Murtagh's Meadow

  9. aranislandgirl

    I signed the AVAAZ link. Recently I facebooked a petition to ban RoundUp in Europe, encouraging Inis Mor to stop using it by choice instead of waiting for it to be ‘forced’ upon us. Nothing distresses me more than seeing spraying in the field next door to ours. If goes beyond let and let live, everyone is effected.

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    1. Murtagh's Meadow Post author

      Inis Mor would have a great opportunity to go fully organic. I read somewhere that there is an Indian state that has done just this.

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