Bees and the Impact of Harmful Chemicals 

The use of harmful chemicals was debated at the Langton Matravers Allotment Association AGM meeting earlier this year.

A presentation was given by Dr Chris Spilling (B.Sc, D Phil) Entomologist on the effects of using harmful chemicals on the land and its impact on the human immune system, in an excerpt from his presentation he said:

"The use of pesticides and herbicides damage biodiversity and it has been shown that once herbicides are used over a plot, the healthy habitat is gone, causing a big impact on the beneficial insects and also for example, on worms who will not come into the area.

Research has also shown that herbicides leaking into the soil will affect the unseen soil fungi and bacteria which are essential for maintaining soil fertility. Small amounts of toxic herbicides taken up by edible plants can reduce the complex composition of bacteria in the gut when the plant is eaten. It appears that 70% of our immune system and response is influenced by this complex bacterial gut composition and any reduction in the complexity would be detrimental to the immune system. In the current pandemic, numbers of scientists and TV programmes are promoting the importance of healthy gut flora to boost and maintain the immune system.

Many pests can be deterred by using microfleece; slugs can be managed by using organic nontoxic slug pellets and predatory insects encouraged by the creation of suitable habitats and the growing of flowers to provide nectar and pollen for the beneficial insects. Weeds and grass are often controlled by use of light proof covering."

Bees in lavender

Patti Sandham, a local beekeeper has also provided information about the serious effects harmful chemicals such as herbicides, insecticides and pesticides have on bees:

"Some chemicals are harmful, such as those which contain Glyphophate and Neoniconoids as they easily get into the food chain and affect a wide range of living organisms.

By using chemicals (simply called herbicides and pesticides) on gardens or the allotment to destroy weeds and pests, it is important  to understand how they work and what effects they might have on species diversity and the environment 

Some chemicals are sprayed onto the foliage, causing the leaves to dehydrate and wither; the plant is, therefore, unable to utilize sunlight energy to make food for growth and dies. However, the chemical can then enter the soil and affect the soil bacteria and soil structure and then leach into waterways.

Some chemicals are sprayed onto the plant and are absorbed by the leaves; they then travel to all parts of the plant and into any of the cells; for example, those which make the roots, new shoots, flowers, pollen, nectar and seeds; these are called systemic chemicals. Again, these types of chemicals can enter the food chain and affect soil and water sources.

Pollinating insects, such as bees, visit a plant to collect nectar and pollen which they use to feed their colony; they store it as food reserves. The nectar is converted into honey and both this and pollen is stored in the honeycomb.

If the plants they are visiting have been sprayed with a harmful chemical then the bees will ingest it via the nectar and pollen; this means that this will not only affect all the young larvae and newly emerged bees but also enter the human food chain, via the honey.

Using bees as an example, the chemicals can have a detrimental effect on their flight, their memory to find food and their movement within the hive (a worker bee has 10 jobs in order to maintain a healthy colony). The queen bee may also produce fewer eggs and the resulting larvae and new bees may be deformed. Infection can then be easily transmitted throughout the hive, resulting in the death of the whole colony."

Both presentations were included in the Langton Dubber and members of Langton Planet Action and Langton Matravers Allotment Association have highlighted this as a concern for the wellbeing of the community.

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