RHS set to unearth the nations gardening knowledge with its first ever Dig Together Day (1,5 & 6 September)
Are you unwittingly killing Bees?
Depending on the insecticide you are using in your garden you could be part of the cause for the massive deaths of Bee colonies.
Imidacloprid is a neonicotinoid which is a chemical modeled after Nicotine. It has been developed by Bayer Cropscience and sold under the names Kohinor, Admire, Advantage, Gaucho, Merit, Confidor, Hachikusan, Premise, Prothor, and Winner. Most of which you will not have heard of. however if you look for a systemic insecticide which protects plants from Vine Weevils you are more than likely to to come across a Neonicotioid based insecticide like Bug Clear Ultra - vine weevil killer (contains Acetamiprod) Don't use this product it kills Bees! Levington Plant Protection Compost which used to contain a Neonicotinoid called Intercept (Imidacloprid). I say 'used to' as Levingtons no longer sell this product. Imidacloprid has been developed so commercial companies can copyright naturally occurring products and sell them for huge profits. The product works as a systemic insecticide which is drawn up into the plant and effectively makes it poisonous to any insect ingesting plant liquid. Have you spotted the obvious flaw to this plan yet? The target insects for this insecticide are sucking insects like Aphods, whiteflies, thrips, weevils etc. However Bees also ingest liquid from the plant in the form of nectar. According to Bayer the amount of insecticide found in the Nectar is less than 1.5 parts per billion (ppb) so it should not cause a problem to bees. But researchers at the Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (INRA) suggest that bee behaviour is affected at levels between 3-16 ppb or possibly even 0.5 ppb.
In France it was noted the use of this insecticide as a coating for Sunflower seeds coincided with a severe drop in the population of domestic honey bees. In France, Imidacloprid started being used in 1994 as a seed-coating for sunflowers. The following years, some beekeepers mentioned the possibility of a relationship between the pesticide and some behavioral troubles in bees. Bayer CropScience made some studies on the topic, which concluded Gaucho was non-toxic to bees. At this point, most discussions were kept rather private between Bayer and beekeeper associations. However, during summer 1997, heavy losses of bees were observed in several regions of France and the controversy became public.
In 1998 several studies where performed into potential problems with bees and Imidacloprid. One by a Wilhelm Drescher from the University of Bonn concluded that no results could prove Imidacloprid, used on sunflower seeds, had a detrimental effect on bees. Which was also the conclusions reached by Bayer in it's studies.
In 2001, Gerard Eyries, marketing manager for Bayer's agricultural division in France, was cited saying studies confirmed that Imidacloprid left a small residue in nectar and pollen, but there was no evidence of a link with the drop in France's bee population, adding, "It is impossible to have zero residue. What is important is to know whether the very tiny quantities which have been found have a negative effect on bees." He also added that the product was sold in 70 countries with no reported side effects. Other studies indicated that concentrations were especially high when the plant is young. These would often be of
- 10 to 20 ppb in upper leaves
- 100 to 200 ppb in other leaves
- less than 1.5 ppb in nectar
- 2 to 3 ppb in pollen
Bayer then agreed that the insecticide may cause disorientation of bees at levels above 20 parts per billion of the active ingredient. Recent studies by researchers at the Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (INRA) suggest that bee behaviour is affected at levels between 3-16 ppb or possibly even 0.5 ppb.
Moving on to 2008 the German Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety has suspended the registration of eight neonicotinoid pesticide seed treatment products, after Bee Keepers in Baden Württemberg reported a wave of honeybee deaths linked to one of the pesticides, clothianidin. In August 2008 the group Coalition against Bayer Dangers (CBG) brought a legal case against Werner Wenning, Bayer's Chairman, for marketing dangerous pesticides which are causing the death of bees worldwide.
So what can you do to make sure you're not being part of this problem. Don't use insecticides. Also make sure any seeds you buy are not coated with any insecticides. It may take sometime for these Nicotinoids to be removed from sale in the UK, so make sure we can get them out of the food chain as soon as possible by not buying them.