Should All Insecticides Be Banned To Protect Bees And Other Wildlife?

Date: 28th April 2021

Whilst my heart says 'yes, of course' - which is what I would really prefer, I am aware that, for now, this issue is more complex than it first appears.  Although I suspect that a proper regulatory system would lead ultimately to better solutions to real problems, that would in turn make the environment healthier for bees and wildlife.  This is turn would lead to the demise of toxic insecticide use.

Banning Insecticides - We Need To Protect Bees And Wildlife - But There Are Real Life Problems Too!

Some people propose banning all insecticides immediately.  Despite the fact that I have been a long term campaigner against insecticides, I would suggest that we need to be sure we have our ducks in a row with alternative and effective solutions to real problems first.

After all, it’s not merely farming where insecticides are used.  They are also used in domestic settings, and sometimes in tricky situations.  What would your advice be to a low income family or single parent in any one of these situations - or what if you faced one of these scenarios?:

  • A home was genuinely at risk due to wood boring insects.
  • Poisonous biting insects or arachnids represented a danger – for example, I have heard of brown and black widow spiders setting up home in caravans and family vehicles, as well as actual residential homes (the danger depends on the country in which you live).
  • There was a very real hygiene or health threat posed by the insects or invertebrates - such as a cockroach infestations - which had moved into a family’s home.

I think this is a fair question that campaigners need to think about.  What is the best way to deal with these scenarios above?  Of course, the best solution would be to have eco-friendly methods to resolve these problems. But in the meantime, what would you say to a desperately poor family, one with young children or chronically sick family members in any of the situations above?

  • Should the ‘offending species’ be allowed to live in the human space regardless?   In some cases, this is dangerous and impossible!  What if it were your human space, or your child at risk?
  • How would you deal with black or brown widow spiders in your house or vehicle?
  • Is the best solution simply ‘removal’?  (Not always an option).
  • Is the solution to find another method of killing the ‘pest’, but one which does not use insecticides?  Some people would have a problem with killing even ‘dangerous’ pests - no matter what the method.

No matter what the insecticide is for, regulators require that it is tested on bees

If an insecticide is used in any of the scenarios above - including the last one, it will have been tested on bees during the regulatory process, because bees are one of the test species determined by regulators.  The theory is that bees are so important, that any insecticide posing 'unacceptable risk' to bees should not pass through the system (okay, thanks to regulators and shoddy regulatory studies, it hasn't worked out that way).

I despise this fact.  Elsewhere, I argue that if the regulatory system was doing its job, it would naturally lead to humanity finding better solutions.  Indeed, there is NO reason whatsoever, that individuals involved in scientific and environmental disciplines, cannot begin work on this straight away.

Actually, some work is being done in this area - for example, with the use of wasps as natural pest control in farming.  Yet, farming is not the only problem, and they are not the only groups using toxic chemicals.

With regard to the above scenarios, preventative measures are always best in my opinion, but this is only possible if such measures are realistic and do actually exist.  On the other hand, an environmentally toxic method of prevention is hardly going to offer a better solution – and again, is likely to have been tested on bees too.

Summary

I very much dislike the notion of testing insecticides on bees or anything else.  That said, real problems and dilemmas do exist.  I hope we can find better solutions to those problems in the near future. I believe (as evidenced by such examples as  "pest control wasps" used by farmers) that this process has already begun.

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