Keep the bees buzzing

Switzerland is home to more than 600 species of wild bees, and counts several billion honey bees. All these insects’ lives are threatened because of the use of pesticides. These substances impede these pollinators from navigating to flowers, compromise their reproductive health and weaken their immune system. We must act now to preserve all bee species from harmful pesticides. Join us in making a difference.

Amongst all wild pollinators present in Switzerland, there exist more than 600 species of wild bees, including leafcutter bees and mining bees. Each of these species fulfils a vital function in preserving the balance of our ecosystems. However, every year, billions of bees suffer the consequences of pesticide usage. At present, initiatives targeting the conservation of wild pollinators primarily emphasise the effects of pesticides on biodiversity and human public health. Unfortunately, there is a lack of campaigning efforts directed specifically towards the well-being of wild and honey bees or the detrimental effects of pesticides on individual bees.

Whilst bees are small in size and look very different from humans, it would be a mistake to assume that they lack consciousness. Despite having a brain that measures less than a cubic millimetre, bees boast over a million neurons, and their neural density is 10 times greater than that of a mammalian brain. Take honey bees, for instance; they possess a “rich inner world”, capable of problem-solving and experiencing a range of emotional states. Through the “honey bee dance”, they communicate the locations of food sources within the colony. These remarkable pollinators can even recognise human faces, and even demonstrate counting abilities.

Despite the lesser attention given to wild bees compared to honey bees, they too exhibit highly developed learning capabilities and fascinating behaviours. Take leafcutter bees, for example, they have been observed methodically removing plant foliage in semi-circular patterns to construct their nests, whilst mining bees carve burrows in sandy or barren soil. Other species collect tree resin and plant hairs for nest construction or use empty snail shells as nesting sites. Despite these astonishing abilities, bees remain misunderstood, undervalued and, consequently, lack the protection they rightfully deserve.

Wild bees, through their pollination services, play a pivotal role in driving biodiversity, and they are indispensable for ensuring our food security. Understanding and addressing the challenges that bees face is essential for safeguarding their well-being, but also ours.

The aim of our petition

Through the “Invisible Animals” campaign and petition, we aim to enhance the well-being of bees by reducing pesticide use and by raising awareness of their importance as individuals. To achieve this, we must develop a reduction plan for pesticides and consider the role of wild bees and other pollinators in city and urban planning.

Sentience’s asks for bees and wild pollinators

  1. Development of a reduction plan for pesticides from the groups of pyrethroids (e.g., cypermethrin and deltamethrin) and neonicotinoids (e.g., clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam)
  2. Increased consideration of the role of wild bees (and pollinators) in city and urban planning (creation of natural green spaces, water bodies, as well as green roofs and facades)
  3. Enhanced implementation of flowering strips (as well as the promotion of research in the area of seed mixtures to support the well-being of wild pollinators)
  4. Stricter regulations on the use of mower conditioners, splinters and related equipment
  5. Construction and maintenance of species-appropriate nesting sites for various species of wild bees

The unseen consequences of pesticides

Most pesticides inflict both lethal and sublethal effects on bees, whether through direct contact during plant treatment, subsequent exposure to treated plants, or ingestion of contaminated pollen and nectar. Upon exposure to these substances, bees experience changes in their sense of smell and taste, leading to disorientation. Their diminished olfactory and gustatory abilities make them unable to detect and locate flowers for food. Chronic exposure to these substances disrupts bees’ hormonal balance and reproductive health: certain toxins impair the reproductive organs of males, resulting in diminished reproductive capacity. Pesticides also weaken bees’ immune systems, making them more susceptible to infections by pathogens.

The effect of pesticides on wild bees is often disregarded, and the threat they pose to wild bee populations is underestimated. Over 70% of all wild bees species nest in the ground, rendering them vulnerable to pesticides not only through direct contact with plants, but also via runoff in water and soil. Numerous substances contribute to a decline in wild bee populations, in solitary bee nesting and in bumblebee colony growth and reproduction.

Indirectly, pesticides also affect bee species by contributing to a reduction in plant variety, leading to a decrease in the number of flowers accessible to them.

In recent years, a range of alternatives to pesticides has emerged to safeguard wild and domesticated bees. Agro-ecology, organic farming and the development of crop varieties resistant to “pests” and diseases are all promising avenues to reducing reliance on harmful chemicals. Seemingly “smaller-scale” habits, such as avoiding using pesticides when plants are in flower, or reducing lawn mowing frequency, are equally crucial in our collective endeavour to protect wild and domesticated bees from pesticide use.

Become an advocate for bees!

By reducing pesticide use, we can help improve the lives of billions of wild and domesticated bees every year. To put this into practice, we also need the support of our institutions; and by signing our petition today, you can catalyse positive change and ensure a reduction in pesticide use, as well as the development of more sustainable and bee-friendly approaches to agriculture, apiculture as well as city and urban planning.

Even though a single signature may feel like nothing, a well-supported petition can serve as a powerful demonstration of public concern and support for the welfare of all bees.

Become a voice for bees so that they can stay busy buzzing.

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