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Help Xerces Protect Biodiversity from Biocides

Bumble bee on checkermallow flower
Sara Morris


Biodiversity, the variety of life forms on Earth, is under threat. To solve it, we must support the invertebrates that are foundational to ecosystems. That means protecting, restoring and managing habitat in all landscapes — from natural areas to farms to urban cores. At Xerces, we have protected and restored over 3.5 million acres of habitat over the last 20 years, and we have improved management on tens of millions of additional acres. 

Yet protecting and planting habitat is not enough! To stop the insect decline, we must also minimize and or eliminate the impact of pesticides in all landscapes. Study after study shows that pesticides are a major cause of insect decline and overall loss of biodiversity. We use more pesticides on this planet now than we have ever used in human history. They appear everywhere from high mountain lakes to our children’s bodies. 

Xerces uses a multipronged approach to address the overuse of pesticides. We work with academic partners on applied research to understand pesticide impacts and solutions. We then use this science to educate audiences about alternative approaches to these toxic substances. We push for policy solutions at the local, state and federal level. But with heavy pesticide use throughout the country, we have our work cut out for us. 

This is why we are coming to you today. Will you support us as we work to protect pollinators and other important invertebrates from these toxic chemicals? Together we can make a real difference and help solve the biodiversity crisis. 

In the Central Valley of California, an area vital for monarch butterflies and other pollinators, our research showed that 100% of milkweed plants were contaminated with pesticides, or as Rachel Carson called them, biocides. The same was true for milkweed plants sold at nurseries nationwide. These are the very milkweeds that people are planting in their gardens to help monarchs! These studies have been a wakeup call for many public agencies, businesses and gardeners and are leading to changes in how and where pesticides are used.  

Xerces staff also provide technical support to farmers, park managers, plant nursery staff and gardeners to help them move away from pesticides. 180 Bee City and Bee Campus USA affiliates are protecting pollinators by taking actions such as eliminating the use of insecticides and stopping cosmetic pesticide use. Fruit farmers in the Northeast are installing barrier nets to stop insect pests in lieu of weekly insecticide treatments. Plant nurseries are implementing a variety of actions to reduce pesticide use. Just this week, a grower called us to report that he stopped drenching potting soil with a long-lived systemic pesticide known to harm monarchs—and his plants still look great! 

When our technical support alone doesn’t address egregious pesticide uses, we turn to advocacy. The voice of Xerces and our supporters convinced Idaho agencies to curtail pesticide spraying on millions of acres of sensitive lands. In New Mexico, we helped stop a 25,000-acre spray that would have included a wilderness study area and was adjacent to the Rio Chama, a beloved recreation site and a source for drinking water for the City of Albuquerque. And just recently, it was announced that a proposed spray will be halted that could have impacted several national monuments in Arizona after we raised significant concerns. With 17 states listed as part of this program, more work is needed to shift away from this pesticide-intensive land management.

This work is a big undertaking and we cannot do this without your support! By donating to Xerces now, you will help ensure that we can focus on our proven, holistic approach to conservation. 

As a conservation leader, Xerces makes a clear choice to not take money from pesticide companies. We will not provide a platform for their greenwashing. Pesticide companies have been making record profits and talking up their green credentials while doing very little to fix the problems that they cause. Beyond the ethics of taking money earned from harming invertebrates, Xerces feels that our credibility would be at risk if we took money from these sources. 

Still, we partner with people who use pesticides in their work to address harmful pests in food production or disease risks. We understand that there are instances when pesticides are useful. That said, pesticides have become the go-to option for unwanted insects, plants, and other “pests” even when other effective options are feasible. That is why Xerces is willing to have tough conversations with our partners to encourage practices that reduce pesticide reliance. This is what Xerces is all about: making the world a better place by focusing on the solutions to hard problems. 

We hope that you will join us and give today so that we can continue this vital work. With your help, we can make a better world for bees, butterflies, soil and aquatic insects, and all of the plants and animals that rely on these animals for food and pollination.

Scott Black, Director 
Aimée Code, Pesticide Reduction Program Director