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Decarbonise the air, recarbonise the soil.To feed the world, to clean the air and water, we need to change what we do with our soils.This podcast looks at the many variants of regenerative food growing. How? Why? When?We must be the ChangeUnderground!


86. Bees and Neonicotinoids | #worldorganicnews 2017 10 16




FREE .PDF One Square Metre Garden:




Scientists found bee-killing neonicotinoids in 75% of honey sampled from around the world — Quartz…the-world-quartz/

journal Science

Why Bees Matter so Much to Humans

Converting Golf Courses in: In Defense of a Modern Yeomanry


This is the World Organic News for the week ending 16th of October 2017.

Jon Moore reporting!

We begin this week with a worrying development in honey. From the Blog Quartz comes the post: Scientists found bee-killing neonicotinoids in 75% of honey sampled from around the world.


A study published Oct. 6 in the journal Science found that a significant amount of the world’s honey contains traces of neonicotinoids, a class of commonly used pesticides, at levels strong enough to cause brain damage in bees. The chemicals are meant to attack the nervous systems of pests and keep them from eating crops, but it appears they may also hurt bees, which have been dying off in huge numbers in recent years, much to the befuddlement of researchers around the globe.

End Quote

This is a deeply concerning piece of research. There is some argument for the fact that neonics may not be killing bees outright, that is, there’s a full colony on day one and no colony on day three but that they are more insidious. By weakening the adult females collecting the honey they don’t tend to live as long as they would have. This means the next wave of workers have to step up before they are fully mature and the cycle continues until there aren’t any workers to feed the hive. So a slow collapse of the colony structure by the gradual effect of increased wakening. Add to this the neonics in the honey and the problem is magnified.

This may or may not be the cause of colony collapse disorder but it seems a fair working hypothesis.

Because neonics are systemic, that is they reside in every cell of the treated plant, there is no mechanism for avoiding them. They are effective at killing pests which, bite, burrow into and suck sap but there are other insects which are of benefit to the producer. Apart from honeybees and all the other species of bees which assist with pollination, there are the predator species which attack the plant destroying insects.

Now a monoculture of a crop will attract the unwanted insects as quickly as free beer attracts alcoholics. And monocultures are the prefered cultures for industrial farming methods. Economies of scale, cost savings on fencing, remotely operated or even “smart” in air quotes self driving tractors. These economic considerations make perfect sense if the full costs are not paid for by the producer. So things like health costs to the general population from long exposure to carcinogenic pesticides like the now banned DDT are covered by the healthcare industry not the producers of the pesticides. They can keep their costs relatively low and change a very healthy margin to farmers who have been convinced to plant monocultures, invest in expensive machinery and now need a return on investment to keep the banks happy.

The monocultures and their economies of scale create feeding grounds for pest insects. The farmers need to return a profit or go bankrupt, the insecticide companies don’t pay the full costs imposed by their products and therefore we have DDT and neonics to name but a few. The difference between DDT and neonics is that DDT had to be resprayed every time there was an outbreak of pests. Neonics sit there, in the plant, ready to attack the nervous system of any insect that consumes a plant part.

Hooray for science! Less spraying equals good for the environment, no? Well, yes and no. Yes, if less spraying means less pesticide actually in the environment but in the case of systemic pesticides, the answer is a very definite NO!

Neonics sit there, just waiting, in every cell of the plant. Not surprisingly this also includes pollen and nectar cells. Pollinators smack bang up against these cells and their neonic compounds. But i hear you ask: Such tiny amounts can have much of an effect, can they?

I’m so glad you asked. From the post:


For the study, researchers analyzed 198 honey samples from around the world, testing them for five common neonicotinoids: acetamiprid, clothianidin, imidacloprid, thiacloprid, and thiamethoxam. They discovered that at least one of those was present in 75% of the samples. And 34% of the samples contained a concentration of the compounds known to be lethal to bees.

End quote.

It would appear some form of regulation or ban on these chemicals should have happened yesterday but has only been partially implemented in the EU.

Why are bees so important? After all, not everyone gets their sugar from honey.

Honey is almost a pleasant side effect of bees and their behaviours.

A post from One Green Planet dot org from back March 26 this year gives a few clues.


A new study published in Nature Communications found that just two percent of wild bee species contributes 80 percent of the crop pollination visits observed globally. This means that if this small percentage of bees disappears … then 80 percent of our agricultural system will collapse.

Seventy of the top 100 food crops grown worldwide rely on pollinators, this is equivalent to 90 percent of the world’s nutrition. It might sound unbelievable, but without bees we can say goodbye to food such as apples, almonds, oranges and avocados.

End Quote.

Indeed we would be left with plants which are either wind pollinated or which reproduce asexually. So basically things like cereals, wheat, rye, maize, sorghum and so on, potatoes and pineapples! I love pineapples but really I would prefer other fruits too. Some herbs could continue through propagation by cuttings, so rosemary, sage and the like. It does seem we would be left with a very dull diet with very poor nutritional outcomes.

Bees matter! Bees matter a lot. As do those birds which assist in the pollination process and the other insects, butterflies, some wasps and the like.

We have a choice. Fill every cell of every food plant with a poison to kill insects, including bees and move to a diet of spuds, bread and pineapples or end the use of systemic and other, I would argue, all other pesticides. This will mean a necessary change in the means of production. Monocultures will have to go. Alley cropping is one solution which still maintains some economies of scale while adding the benefits of habitat for beneficial insects and birds, reducing soil erosion, protecting crops and livestock and increasing tree numbers. There are solutions. I have argued elsewhere in this podcast and on the blog

that supporting a large number of smaller farmers would bring even more benefits to both the farmers and society as a whole. We could start by converting and rehabilitating every or maybe nearly every golf course and earth and turning them into local organic food producing hubs.

There are ways, we must seize them before it is too late. Live in hope and grow at least a little of your own food.

To that end, the one square metre garden handout is still available. email me at and it’ll be in your inbox pronto! There’s a link at the top of the show notes.

And with that I’ll finish up for this week.

Thank you for listening and I'll be back at the same time.





FREE .PDF One Square Metre Garden:




Scientists found bee-killing neonicotinoids in 75% of honey sampled from around the world — Quartz…the-world-quartz/

journal Science

Why Bees Matter so Much to Humans

Converting Golf Courses in: In Defense of a Modern Yeomanry

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