On October 25, 2023

Are our chrysanthemums killing the bees?

 

Dear Editor,

Recently I bought a few chrysanthemums and asters from a local hardware store, but as I was about to plant them, I wondered if they too had been laced with the neonicotinoids I’d so carefully avoided when buying my summer bedding flowers.

Neonicotinoids are neurotoxic insecticides. They are systemic, permeate the entire plant and endure for three years, building up in the soil and water runoff. Not only do they kill the bugs that feast on plants, but also the pollinators who are responsible for one out of every three bites we humans eat. Songbirds who eat neonic-infected bugs are dying at a much more alarming rate than seed eating birds. White tailed deer and fish are also at risk.

This information comes from a very accessible webinar: “One Square Foot of Grass can have enough Neonics to Kill a Million Bees,” at the Pollinator Pathways website, pollinator-pathway.org.

The speakers are Dan Raichel, acting director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Pollinator Initiative, and Dr. Kathleen Nolan, president of the Physicians for Social Responsibility, NY Chapter and senior research director at Catskill Mountainkeeper. Listening to the webinar, I learned some disturbing facts on how neonics are affecting humans, too. Year after year, neonics build up in the soil and water so that now nearly one third of Long Island’s groundwater is affected. The CDC estimates that on any given day, half of all Americans are exposed to neonicitinoids. Chronic exposure in pregnant women causes brain damage to their children. Eating organic food and using an advanced water filtration system is recommended, but not affordable for everyone. Moreover, the decline in pollinators is lowering crop yields so that good nutrition is becoming unaffordable.

What can be done? VPIRG has begun a public awareness campaign focused on phasing out the use of neonic coated seeds to save our pollinators. In Quebec and Ontario, where this has already happened, there has been no drop in crop yield or profit to farmers. VPIRG’s goal is to have legislation in Vermont drafted and presented to the legislature this winter. Go to popvt.org to sign VPIRG’s petition in favor of this legislation.

Meanwhile, what do we do with our beautiful mums? In my fruitless search for local, organic chrysanthemums, I finally accepted that almost all mums grown by conventional nurseries contain neonicotinoids, even those that were started from cuttings. If they don’t, they are not labeled neonic-free. As Dr. Nolan said, “If it’s a pretty plant, we’re attracting insects to their death.” She suggested keeping the mums inside and being careful not to compost them. The nerve effects of neonics are permanent and build up over time. We don’t want to feed ourselves, our children and our guests from food grown with neonic compost.

Let’s get out of this science experiment that we didn’t sign up for. Plant hardy mums and asters native to New England that have been grown from organic seed. Support VPIRG and sign the petition. Join Pollinator Pathways of Addison County, pollinatorpathway.addisoncty@gmail.com. 

Maybe someday we can find safe and beautiful chrysanthemums to grace our porches and public roadways, but it will take effort today.

Marguerite Gregory,

Starksboro

Do you want to submit feedback to the editor?

Send Us An Email!

Related Posts

A public education Vermonters support and value

May 22, 2024
By Margaret MacLean Editor’s note: Margaret MacLean, from Peacham, has been an educator for 50 years, working as a teacher, school principal and consultant both in Vermont, the U.S. and internationally. Over the past 14 years Vermont has enacted three sweeping school district consolidation laws. The overarching goals of Act 153, Act 156, and Act…

Vermont’s lost submarine memorial

May 22, 2024
Dear Editor, At the Veteran Administration (VA) in White River Jct, VT, there is a distinct memorial dedicated to the Submarine USS Flier (SS 250) lost during World War II.  Ever mindful of our lost shipmates, friends and family that have served in the submarine service of our country, the U.S. Submarine Veterans, Inc. (USSVI)…

H.121 poses significant risk to Vermont’s business community

May 22, 2024
Dear Editor, As the CEO of the Vermont Country Store (VCS), I strongly support consumer privacy as does the Vermont Chamber of Commerce and many peer companies in the state. I wholeheartedly endorse the Connecticut law that was the foundation of H.121. However, as passed it is my hope that Governor Scott will veto H.121.…

Vermont’s outsize appetite for taxes

May 22, 2024
Dear Editor, Most Vermont taxpayers have just experienced a period of tax focus, specifically property taxes to support our public schools. Some communities are still going through the valuable public debate about property taxes and, more generally, the overall tax burden and trying to evaluate that relative to what we receive for our tax dollars.…