Today's important message is late for this year's growing season but we can always take action right now.
I'm sure you've heard about the dangers to honeybees from neonicotinoids, a class of pesticides used heavily in agriculture since 2008. What you might not realize is that this pesticide may be in your garden whether you put it there or not. Here's why.
What are neonicotinoids?
Neonics are nervous system disrupters that, depending on dose and exposure, cause confusion, hyperactive behavior, severe tremors or death in insects. Low doses kill slowly through chronic exposure because the chemical lasts so long (5 months to years).
Neonics are "systemic" poisons because they are water soluble. Plants suck up neonic-laden water and distribute it into roots, leaves, pollen, nectar, everywhere. The entire plant is poisonous to a wide range of insects including "bad" insects that suck juices and eat leaves (aphids, stinkbugs and Japanese beetles) and "good" insects that collect pollen and nectar (bees and butterflies). Bees and butterflies visit poisoned flowers and die elsewhere.
How do neonicotinoids get into your garden?
Neonicotinoids are primarily delivered via soil treatments and seed coatings. Garden treatments contain doses 40 times higher than agricultural products. These pathways may surprise you.
- Pesticides you bought to kill bad insects, especially soil treatments. Check the label!
- Potting soil: If treated with neonics, the plants grown in the soil are poisonous. Check the label!
- Plants or seedlings you bought at the store: They're already grown, but how? If their seeds were coated with neonics or the soil was treated, the plants you bought are poisonous.
What can you do?
Practice reading labels: Many companies have neonic products. This example is from the "Bayer Advanced" product line containing Imidacloprid. Scroll down below Quick Facts to see Active ingredients.
12-month Tree & Shrub Insect Control
2-in-1 Systemic Rose & Flower Care
2-in-1 Insect Control and Fertilizer
Labels tell you some of the insects the product kills but never all of the insects affected.
If you've learned something new, don't worry, don't blame yourself. Time is on your side. Start now to change your garden. Remember this Chinese proverb ...
The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The next best time is now.
(photo of dead bee from Wikimedia Commons. Click on the image to see the original)
A blog for home gardeners: potting soil and nursery plants Skowhegan, Maine, 2013.
News about pesticide-laced potting soil WRAL, Raleigh, NC, 2003.
Backyard Pesticide Use May Fuel Bee Die-offs. WIRED, 2012.
Risk Assessments Are Missing Harmful Effects of Neonics on Honey Bees Union of Concerned Scientists, 2013.
How neonicotinoids affect honey bee queens. Sub-lethal effects. The Journal Nature, 2016.
Bayer sold Bayer Garden and Bayer Advanced product lines to SBM (based in France). October 2016.