In 2014, after Broomfield County had just approved licenses to keep honeybees, I bought my first two hives off of a beekeeper in Evergreen who was tired of the bears getting into them every winter. Then I attended my first meeting of the Boulder County beekeepers and learned about colony collapse disorder and the environmental stresses that lead to honeybee colonies failing.
Now, in 2021, these sentiments are being echoed to justify a ban on neonics in Boulder County, which we believe would be counterproductive to Colorado and demonstrates that one size fits all is never a good policy.
It is commonly cited within the beekeeping community that pesticides called neonics can negatively impact honeybees. An oft-invoked visualization shows a bee landing on a sunflower grown from seeds coated in neonics, triggering its neuroreceptors and leading it to collect nectar in an inefficient and bizarre pattern. While this is harmful to the foraging bees that are at the end of their lifecycle, this doesn’t mean that this is leading to colony collapse disorder or massive deaths of bees.
What’s more, recent evidence has proven that pesticides such as neonics (short for neonicotinoids) and sulfoxaflor haven’t been as responsible for declines in bee populations after all.
All beekeepers are aware of varroa mites, now present in all American honeybee colonies since first detected in the U.S. in 1987. The original research on these parasites in the 1960s hypothesized that they lived off the blood of honeybees, but a groundbreaking study published in 2019 found that this theory was false. These mites have a “voracious appetite for a honeybee organ called the fat body, which serves many of the same vital functions carried out by the human liver.”
These mites put a lot of stress on honeybee colonies and make it very hard for them to survive over the winter. While there is debate amongst the beekeeping community on whether it is right to treat honeybees for mites, most beekeepers treat their colonies at least once a year with some sort of pesticide that is safe for the bees but kills off a lot of mites. A popular method is to vaporize oxalic acid inside the hive. In this instance, pesticides assist beekeepers with preventing colony collapse disorder, further debunking the claim.
While we understand the urge to protect and promote pollinators such as honeybees in Colorado, Boulder County needs to allow farmers the choice of pesticides. Sugar beets have been grown in Colorado since 1869, as it is an ideal climate and soil for growing them. Sugar was processed in mills across our state for over a hundred years. Banning neonics means that sugar beet farmers must use the pesticide Counter, which is applied at 9.8 pounds per acre compared to 24 grams per acre for neonics.
This puts them at greater risk of exposure to pesticides and the kicker to all this is that sugar beets don’t even have a flower. This one size fits all policy isn’t about saving the bees but rather harms the local small business owners that grow Colorado sugar beets and a host of other crops.
That’s why, whether at the local level or state level, lawmakers must keep in mind that pesticides are vital for farmers and turn to science, not politics, when it comes to crafting smart policy.
Originally published here