Some good news from the European Union this week where a two year restriction on the use of neonicotinoid chemicals, the world’s most used insecticide has been introduced to take effect from 1st December 2013. This decision is a result of strong community lobbying based on increasing scientific evidence that links the use of neonicotinoid chemicals to the serious decline in bee populations across North America and Europe.

Bees are significant pollinators and are essential for global food production and consequently global food security. They are estimated to pollinate about 30% of food crops world wide. In South West China, the heavy use of pesticides has completely wiped out bee populations over the past two decades and farmers and orchardists are forced to pollinate by hand with feathers dipped in pollen jars.

In the UK, the beekeepers’ association has predicted the total loss of honeybees in that country within the next decade if nothing is done to try to protect them.

Neonicotinoid chemicals are a chemical group that include imidacloprid, clothianidin and thiamethoxam. As yet there is insufficient field data to draw a definitive link between the use of these chemicals and the decline in bee populations. But in controlled laboratory situations, these chemicals have conclusively been shown to have significant negative effects on bees. Most especially it has been shown that neonicotinoids interfere with the bees homing signals and foraging bees fail to return to the hive. Without the pollen necessary to feed and sustain the hive there is a significant drop in hive populations. Evidence has also linked the chemicals to an 85% drop in the production of Queen Bees that are essential for the establishment of new hives.

Whilst neonicotinoid chemicals are being targeted in this ban, other common chemicals and environmental factors are also known to be contributing to the decline of bee populations. These include large scale monocultures, habitat loss, climate change and prolonged drought.

Here in Australia neonicotinoids are  still on the market although a review on their use and effect on bees is currently being undertaken by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Association (APVMA), the government’s regulating body. Both the US Environmental Association and the APVMA have decided not to remove these chemicals from sale whilst they conduct their reviews of neonicotinoids.

At SGA we have long promoted the most environmentally friendly way of managing our garden pests. This includes the minimisation of harmful chemicals. In this instance we feel that there is significant reason to ask you to voluntarily stop using, not just neonicotinoids but also other insecticides that are harmful to bees. You can identify the chemical being used by reading the Active Ingredient which should be clearly displayed on the front of the packet or bottle. In addition, the detailed instructions provided with the product should also indicate the toxicity level to bees.

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Banner: Elaine Shallue
Honey Bee on Parrot Pea: Mary Trigger
Bee on Mint: Elaine Shallue