Monthly Archives: August 2017

No neonicotinoids on 9/10 garden centre plants

Nine of the top 10 leading garden retailers and garden centres don’t want the flowering plants they sell to be grown with bee-harming neonicotinoid pesticides and have told suppliers not to use them, a Friends of the Earth survey  reveals.

However, one of the biggest garden retailers – Homebase – has yet to commit to working with suppliers to end the use of restricted neonicotinoids, despite being contacted by thousands of people via a Friends of the Earth online action ….

New Research Shows Risk to Bumblebee Extinction


The government must act to permanently ban bee-harming pesticides says
Friends of the Earth as new research from Royal Holloway University suggests that neonicotinoid pesticides pose a risk of bumblebee extinction.

The research showed that queen bees exposed to neonicotinoid pesticides were
26% less likely to be able to start a new colony.

Friends of the Earth is urging the UK government to back moves in the EU to
permanently extend current neonicotinoid restrictions to all crops – and
commit to keeping any ban post-Brexit.

Responding to the research, Sandra Bell, Friends of the Earth nature
campaigner, said:

“This new study comes hot on the heels of the largest field trials of
neonicotinoids showing harm to honey bees and wild bees. It also follows
new evidence of how these pesticides leak into the environment and turn up in
wildflowers posing further risk to bees.

“It is clear that use of these chemicals on any crop poses a risk to bees
and other wildlife. The Government has repeatedly said it will follow the
science – how much more science does it need before it acts to protect our
precious bees?

“Michael Gove must put his support behind a comprehensive ban on
neonicotinoid pesticides across the EU and continue the ban in the UK

*Editor’s notes:*

1) Bumblebees are less able to start colonies when exposed to a common
neonicotinoid pesticide, which could lead to collapses in wild bee
populations, according to new research [1] in Nature Ecology & Evolution. Researchers from Royal Holloway, University of London, and the University of Guelph have found
that exposure to thiamethoxam, a common pesticide, reduced the chances of
a bumblebee queen starting a new colony by more than a quarter.

2) In June 2017 a pan-European field study was published [2] providing
evidence that neonicotinoids harm honeybees and wild bees. Covering a
crop area equivalent to 3,000 football pitches, it was the biggest yet
real-world study of these pesticides. Undertaken in the UK, Germany and
Hungary, the experiment found : Increasing levels of neonicotinoid
residues in the nests of wild bee species was linked with lower
reproductive success across all three countries; Exposure to treated
crops reduced overwintering success of honeybee colonies – a key
measure of year-to-year viability – in the UK and Hungary.

3) Another study [3] this year, carried out on corn farms in Canada, found
crops were not the main source of neonicotinoids to which bees were
exposed. Instead, the contaminated pollen came from wildflowers, as has
also been shown in the UK. Nadia Tsvetkov, at York University in Canada
and who led the research said that “This indicates that neonicotinoids,
which are water soluble, spill over from fields into the surrounding
environment, where they are taken up by other plants that are very
attractive to bees”.




Plants on sale to the public are a significant source of pesticides

Ornamental plants on sale to the public are a significant source of pesticide residues with implications for the health of pollinating insects
Lentola, A, David, A, Abdul-Sada, A, Tapparo, A, Goulson, D and Hill, E M (2017) Ornamental plants on sale to the public are a significant source of pesticide residues with implications for the health of pollinating insects. Environmental Pollution, 228. pp. 297-304. ISSN 0269-7491

Garden centres frequently market nectar- and pollen-rich ornamental plants as “pollinator-friendly”, however these plants are often treated with pesticides during their production. There is little information on the nature of pesticide residues present at the point of purchase and whether these plants may actually pose a threat to, rather than benefit, the health of pollinating insects.

Using mass spectrometry analyses, this study screened leaves from 29 different ‘bee-friendly’ plants for 8 insecticides and 16 fungicides commonly used in ornamental production. Only two plants (a Narcissus and a Salvia variety) did not contain any pesticide and 23 plants contained more than one pesticide, with some species containing mixtures of 7 (Ageratum houstonianum) and 10 (Erica carnea) different agrochemicals. Neonicotinoid insecticides were detected in more than 70% of the analysed plants, and chlorpyrifos and pyrethroid insecticides were found in 10% and 7% of plants respectively. Boscalid, spiroxamine and DMI-fungicides were detected in 40% of plants.

Pollen samples collected from 18 different plants contained a total of 13 different pesticides. Systemic compounds were detected in pollen samples at similar concentrations to those in leaves. However, some contact (chlorpyrifos) and localised penetrant pesticides (iprodione, pyroclastrobin and prochloraz) were also detected in pollen, likely arising from direct contamination during spraying. The neonicotinoids thiamethoxam, clothianidin and imidacloprid and the organophosphate chlorpyrifos were present in pollen at concentrations between 6.9 and 81 ng/g and at levels that overlap with those known to cause harm to bees.

The net effect on pollinators of buying plants that are a rich source of forage for them but simultaneously risk exposing them to a cocktail of pesticides is not clear. Gardeners who wish to gain the benefits without the risks should seek uncontaminated plants by growing their own from seed, plant-swapping or by buying plants from an organic nursery.