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Beekeepers fight against pesticides, bring awareness to plight of pollinator


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    HENDERSON COUNTY, N.C. (WLOS) — Henderson County beekeeper Jim Poe says he has just under 1 million bees in his backyard.

“I like to say I’m bee evangelizing, telling people about bees,” Poe said.

The Director of External Communications for the Henderson County Beekeepers’ Association says he is dedicated to raising bees and raising awareness about many of the challenges they face.

Among those challenges are pesticides.

New research from the American Association for the Advancement of Science shows that American farmers are using smaller amounts of better targeted pesticides, but they are harming pollinators far more.

That same study indicates that toxicity levels have more than doubled since 2005 for important species, including honeybees, as the country switched to a new generation of pesticides.

According to the research, the new pesticides are often more toxic and include neonicotinoids, which have been connected to dwindling honeybee numbers.

Poe says those neonicotinoids can have harmful impacts on bees’ nervous systems.

“It could be that bee may have a hard navigating his way or her way back or when they bring it back to the hive, they feed the young that pollen and if it’s contaminated with pesticides, it can just lower the overall health,” he said.

He said that impact can have a domino-like effect on the rest of the ecosystem, since bees pollinate many of the crops we eat.

“If we want to continue to eat the interesting things that we eat, most of them are pollinated and a whole lot of them are pollinated by honeybees,” he said.

But, he said, the key to bringing about change in the pesticide industry is getting people curious about these little insects.

“You’ve got to break through to people’s consciousness and then also link that up to, ‘Why is that important to me?'” Poe said. “And then when they realize this does have an importance to me, and my health and my children’s health, and economically too.”

Artist and founder of The Good of the Hive Matt Willey agrees that bringing awareness to bees is where this fight begins. That’s why he’s painting a bee mural in downtown Hendersonville on the side of the Hands On! Childrens Museum.

“My work as an art activist is to raise awareness about the importance of the pollinators and really bring people into connection with how cool and beautiful they are,” Willey said.

He, too, is concerned about pesticide use and its impact on pollinators.

“A pollinator, if it’s not healthy, if it has a nervous system problem from a pesticide, and then a bird eats that, their migratory patterns can change. Things they’ve been doing for millennia, they’re suddenly off kilter because of something we’ve put into the environment that we have every opportunity to take back out. We can stop putting them into the environment and let the world align,” Willey said.

He said getting agricultural pesticide policies changed is the ultimate goal, but average citizens can also make a difference in their own yards at home.

“Don’t grab the Roundup and spray the dandelion in your yard; just don’t,” Willey said. “If we can get our pollinators healthy, everything else down the line will start to be more healthy.”

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