The road I live on traverses a large field between two farms before it climbs up our steep hill. In summer, the fields on either side of the road are teeming with life. We’ve seen all sorts of wildlife between the farms. My favorite creature to view is a barn swallow on the hunt for flying insects. They are aerobatic masters. When I’m on a motorcycle or in a convertible, a slow cruise across the fields in summer is a visual and olfactory paradise.
After a sweltering day, my wife and I enjoy a cool ride to town in one of the convertibles for an ice cream cone. That is the time that the barn swallows are out as we cross the fields. You get the full barn swallow, flora, and fauna experience with the top down. Occasionally we will return from the ice cream run as it is getting dark, and this year we have been treated to a firefly show. In recent years the fireflies and barn swallows have been fewer in number, and there is a reason for that. There might be a reason why we’ve seen more in 2022, but it is just a guess on my part. That is where my favorite unpronounceable epithet comes in. Neonicotinoids. A slur, a pox on nature, and a tongue twister all in one.
The class of pesticides known as neonicotinoids is blamed for considerable declines in pollinator populations, ie: honeybees, etc. It doesn’t take much of a logical leap to realize the effect neonicotinoids have on other insects such as fireflies. Take one step further and there is a concern for the creatures that feed on insects. That is where the barn swallows come in. Their numbers have been reduced in Canada and the U.S. by 38 percent since 1970.
This is a big, scientific area of complexity that is beyond my limited comprehension, but most countries have issued outright bans on neonicotinoids. The U.S. has banned some but not all of this controversial class of pesticides. However, it does not take a rocket surgeon or a brain scientist to realize that a powerful pesticide just might be to blame for pollinator population declines. Somehow we managed to figure out that DDT was killing bald eagles decades ago, so it stands to reason that a mass die-off of a wild creature might be linked to a pesticide.
I read that Home Depot and Lowe’s were successfully convinced to stop selling plants that get treated with neonicotinoids. The impact of these two giant retailers no longer selling a product that just might be killing off honey bees and other creatures is considerable. It is also fair warning that there can be economic consequences for messing with mother nature. Sadly, we have to resort to hitting big companies in the pocketbook to get them to do the right thing, but that is what it takes.
We’ve seen benefits here in Vermont from more responsible management of our natural resources. There are now animals all around us that just weren’t here when I was growing up in the fifties and sixties. Wild turkeys, Canada geese, bald eagles, and even coyotes frequent our environs like never before. It is my fervent wish that we continue to get a handle on environmental threats like neonicotinoids. It would be a sad day to no longer be able to delight in the light show put on by fireflies each spring, and the aerobatic beauty of barn swallows in flight.