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Our Superfood – the Blueberry and the Increasing Need for Insecticides

June 26, 2014

An increasing amount of insecticides applied for controlling the spotted wing drosophila on ripening raspberries and blueberries may be having a detrimental effect on our bee population. There is an article in the Vancouver Sun today regarding potential concern over honey bees and the effect of insecticides ( All of the insecticides used to control the spotted wing drosophila are labelled as harmful to bees. The insecticides are applied when the fruit is ripening.

The lists of insecticides allowed for use on the ripe blueberries is not encouraging. There are five allowed for use in British Columbia and 15 allowed for use just across the border in Washington State. This is a concern for growers in BC because their Washington competitors have more options which are also less costly.

All insecticides used for spotted wing drosophila control are reported harmful to bees (BC Ministry of Agriculture 2013, and Oregon State University 2013). Our neighbours to the south allow neonicotinoids insecticides which are topic of great debate and have been banned in Europe because of suggested harm to bees. Foliar application of these insecticides certainly can increase risk of harm to bees, especially during pollination.

Although there are many debates over the safety of our food with the use of pesticides, there is enough information to suggest potential harm. Thankfully, many of the insecticides target biochemical pathways specific to insects and which are not found in humans. We also realize that there are other implications that we can’t necessarily foresee. In a review of 104 scientific studies, Pezzoli and Cereda (2013) concluded that exposure to pesticides increases the risk of Parkinson’s disease. Samsel and Seneff (2013) suggest that the effect of glyphosate, a herbicide that was first labelled as organic, specific to plants, and completely harmless in soil, is as follows: “Negative impact on the body is insidious and manifests slowly over time as inflammation damages cellular systems throughout the body.”

There are 8200 ha of blueberries in the lower Fraser Valley (Statistics Canada 2011). With the increased concern of damage from the spotted wing drosophila, it translates into a lot of insecticide spraying when the berries are ripe. Have we all participated in a decision that any increased health risk is worth it because of the value of the blueberry to our economy? Can we with our creative minds, come up with a method of growing food that minimizes our potential health risks? What is an acceptable health risk?

There is a significant change in land use to crops that cannot utilize manure or digestate. This photo was taken near the dairy farm that I grew up on.

Increasing amounts of insecticides are required to control the spotted wing drosophila on our soft fruits in the Fraser Valley.

I realize that all things need to be taken in perspective. Last summer,  I observed that fast food restaurants in California are required to post sign stating that some chemicals known to cause harm may be present in foods or beverages sold here. I really hope that the time doesn’t come when our supermarkets have to post signs by our fruit and vegetables that state that these products may contain trace amounts of harmful chemicals, or that the production of these products may negatively impact the environment….

According to an article in Time Magazine entitled “The Plight of the Honey Bee”,9171,2149141,00.html, we may not have to worry about growing blueberries in the future. The potential death of the honey bee, regardless of why it is dying, will mean the end of blueberries because the bees are no longer there to pollinate them….

Update September 5, 2014 – Ontario beekeepers sue Bayer and Magenta over neonicotinoid pesticides-



BC Ministry of Agriculture. 2013. Spotted Wing Drosophila (SWD) Management in BC Berry Crops. July 3, 2013.

Oregon State University. 2013. Insecticides registered for use in OR and WA Blueberries for management of SWD, and considerations for their use. July 15, 2013.

Pezzoli, G., and E. Cereda. 2013. Exposure to pesticides or solvents and risk of Parkinson disease. Neurology 80: 2035-2041.

Samsel, A., and S. Seneff. 2013. Glyphosate’s Suppression of Cytochrome P450 Enzymes and Amino Acid Biosynthesis by the Gut Microbiome: Pathways to Modern Diseases. Entropy 15: 1416-1463.

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