EU Bans Controversial Pesticide in the Name of Bees

Illustration for article titled EU Bans Controversial Pesticide in the Name of Bees
Photo: AP

Let’s pop some champagne this weekend: The European Union decided Friday to ban all outdoor use of neonicotinoids, insecticides that have been linked to wild bee population declines and stunted colony growth.


Neonicotinoids are the most widely used group of insecticides in the world, and the European Union’s been studying their impacts on bees since 2012. In 2013, it passed a two-year moratorium on three neonicotinoids (clothianidin, imidacloprid, and thiamethoxam) after findings pointed to potential risks to honeybees.

An analysis from the European Food Safety Authority earlier this year heightened concerns, finding that pesticides contaminate soil, nectar, and pollen too. Now, this moratorium has become permanent. It will go into effect by the end of 2018.


“All outdoor uses will be banned and the neonicotinoids in question will only be allowed in permanent greenhouses where exposure of bees is not expected,” the European Commission said in a statement, per Reuters.

What’s the big deal, you ask? Look, I get bees can be annoying, especially when they sting. One afternoon, I walked into my kitchen to find a drove of bees building a hive in the wall next to the window. They were getting into my Brooklyn apartment, and, well, it was terrifying. So believe me: I get it.

We need bees, though. They’re not just wonderful creators of honey. They pollinate the shit out of fruit, nuts, and even spice crops like mustard. They die, and our food supply is hit—hard. Pollinators, including bees, birds, and bats, help drive one-third of the food production worldwide. The insecticides bees are ingesting are already making their way into the world’s honey supply. The levels are low enough to be fine for humans, but this shows how widespread the contamination is.

So environmentalists are praising this recent development. Farmers and developers of these pesticides, on the other hand, aren’t too happy. They err more on the side of skepticism.

“European agriculture will suffer as a result of this decision,” said Graeme Taylor, public affairs director of the European Crop Protection Association, to The Guardian. “Perhaps not today, perhaps not tomorrow, but in time decision makers will see the clear impact of removing a vital tool for farmers.”


Regardless of what opponents have to say, the ban is a go. Sure, folks on the other side might respond with lawsuits (like they did in 2013), but a few facts remain clear: We need honeybees, and they are dying off.

Anything that helps them hang on seems like a win.


Yessenia Funes is climate editor at Atmos Magazine. She loves Earther forever.

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Plant more native nectar plants to help the pollinators with this US-Canada list from the Xerces Society.


100 Plants to Feed the Bees


1. Anise Hyssop, Giant Hyssop

2. Aster

3. Beebalm

4. Black-Eyed Susan

5. Blanketflower

6. Blazing Star

7. Blue Curls

8. Blue Vervain

9. California Poppy

10. Clarkia

11. Coreopsis

12. Culver’s Root

13. Cup Plant, Compass Plant, Rosinweed

14. Figwort

15. Fireweed

16. Globe Gilia

17. Goldenrod

18. Gumweed

19. Ironweed

20. Joe-Pye Weed, Boneset

21. Lobelia

22. Lupine

23. Meadowfoam

24. Milkweed

25. Mountainmint

26. Native Thistle

27. Penstemon

28. Phacelia

29. Prairie Clover

30. Purple Coneflower

31. Rattlesnake Master, Eryngo

32. Rocky Mountain Bee Plant

33. Salvia

34. Selfheal

35. Sneezeweed

36. Spiderwort

37. Sunflower

38. Waterleaf

39. Wild Buckwheat

40. Wild Geranium

41. Wild Indigo

42. Wingstem

43. Wood Mint

Native Trees and Shrubs

44. Acacia

45. Basswood

46. Blackberry, Raspberry

47. Black Locust

48. Blueberry

49. Buckwheat Tree

50. Buttonbush

51. Chamise

52. Coyotebrush

53. False Indigo, Leadplant

54. Golden Currant

55. Inkberry

56. Madrone

57. Magnolia

58. Manzanita

59. Mesquite

60. Ocean Spray

61. Oregon Grape

62. Rabbitbrush

63. Redbud

64. Rhododendron

65. Rose

66. Saw Palmetto

67. Serviceberry

68. Sourwood

69. Steeplebush, Meadowsweet

70. Toyon

71. Tulip Tree

72. Tupelo

73. Wild Lilac

74. Willow

75. Yerba Santa

Introduced Trees and Shrubs

76. Orange

77. Plum, Cherry, Almond, Peach

Introduced Herbs and Ornamentals

78. Basil

79. Borage

80. Catnip

81. Coriander

82. Cosmos

83. Hyssop

84. Lavender

85. Mint

86. Oregano

87. Rosemary

88. Russian Sage

89. Thyme

Native and Nonnative Bee Pasture Plants

90. Alfalfa

91. Buckwheat

92. Clover

93. Cowpea

94. Mustard

95. Partridge Pea

96. Radish

97. Sainfoin

98. Scarlet Runner Bean

99. Sweetclover

100. Vetch