An Evening of Insight with the NRDC, The Pollinators Director, the Pesticide Research Institute, and The Bee Conservancy

The bee crisis is ready for its close-up.

The Bee Conservancy’s founder and executive director Guillermo Fernandez joined an eye-opening March 10 panel tied to the 2019 documentary, The Pollinators, which chronicles how pesticide use in commercial agriculture is putting the bee population of North America in danger.

Filmmaker Peter Nelson was on hand to screen clips from The Pollinators, a look at the migratory beekeepers who take truckloads of honey bees across the U.S. to pollinate the flowers that yield the fruits and vegetables we love. Rounding out the discussion were environmental scientist Susan Kegley, CEO of the Pesticide Research Institute and co-owner of an 11-acre farm that uses bees for pollination, and moderator Dan Raichel, acting director of the Pollinator Initiative at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) which hosted the event.

The conversation quickly turned to the tiny stars of the film.

“I followed commercial migratory beekeepers around the United States over a season of pollination as a way to talk about agriculture and our food system and bees and the problems that bees are facing,” said Nelson.

Bees are indeed facing a problem—one of potentially cataclysmic proportions.

Pesticides and the Neonicotinoid Crisis

Pesticides called neonicotinoids (neonics), which have been embraced in recent decades by many commercial farms across the U.S, have led to mass deaths of pollinators. It is one of the major factors that has put one in four of North America’s 4,000 bee species at risk of extinction.

Their loss is our loss, and that’s not an overstatement. One hundred percent of almonds, for example, are pollinated by bees, while 90 percent of apples, blueberries, and avocados are also the fruits of bees’ labor. If bees are taken out of the agricultural system, the cost of fruits and vegetables could multiply tenfold, pricing out vulnerable communities from any access to crucial sources of nutrition.

“Our food system is threatened because the bees are in trouble,” Kegley explained in the film.

Taking Action to Save the Bees

As the movie indicates, however, there are still ways to flip the script.

Seattle has banned neonics on public land in the city, and sales of the dangerous pesticides have been banned throughout the state of Maryland. There has been pressure in the New York Legislature over the last two years to pass a Birds and Bees Protection Act that would similarly ban the use of neonicotinoid insecticides. (New Yorkers can click here to take action on the Birds and Bees Protection Act alongside the NRDC.)

There are steps that individuals can take to help, too. Regenerative agriculture, which uses more sustainable farming techniques such as avoiding plowing the soil, diverse crop rotations, and reducing pesticide use, would provide safer conditions for bees. In cities, strips of land can be devoted to providing pollinator gardens to support native bee populations. Every small patch of land makes a big difference.

Through the Sponsor-A-Hive program, The Bee Conservancy is gifting nonprofits, community organizations, and schools native bee houses and the guidance to use them, helping to bolster ecology and biodiversity at the local level.

“First and foremost, what we can do is really turn our cities and residential areas into safe havens for all pollinators,” said Fernandez. “Acting together, even in small ways, can create big impact.”

Panel Highlights

The event, shared above, takes a deep dive into important questions including:

  • What are the concerns about pesticides when it comes to bees and other pollinators?
  • What are neonicotinoids, and how are they harming pollintors?
  • Where do pesticides fit into the landscape of threats that bees face?
  • What have we already lost or stand to lose when it comes to pesticides and pollinators?
  • What are panelists most concerned about, and what makes them hopeful about the future?
  • What can individuals you do to help support bees?

Tune in now, and see how we can all help to #BeeTheSolution.