Be Informed About Neonicotinoids And Pollinators

beephoto4webAs most people in our industry are probably well aware by now, there has been a large and, at times, vocal concern raised over the use of neonicotinoids in the greenhouse industry and within all areas of agriculture. This concern revolves around three separate but somewhat related subjects: bee decline, colony collapse disorder and pollinator deaths due to both acute and chronic exposure to pesticides.

A brief review of the development and use of neonicotinoid products shows that these products were approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and first used in the mid 1990s. Through the introduction of these products, the pesticides that were replaced were not only less effective in many cases, but also potentially more dangerous to humans and the environment. The neonicotinoids are systemic materials that are absorbed by the plant and move through it to provide effective pest control. Studies have shown that when mixed and applied properly, these materials are safe to humans and pollinators.

Logically, as with all insecticides, these products are toxic to honeybees and other pollinators if not used properly. Directions by the manufacturer need to be followed correctly and all responsible steps taken to protect beneficial and non-targeted creatures from exposure to these products when applications are made. Furthermore, studies have shown these chemicals can be transferred into the pollen and nectar of treated plants. Pollinators, through the course of their contact with blooms on treated plants, can then be exposed to any tainted pollen and nectar.

Laboratory studies have shown that honeybees and bumble bees exposed to high sub-lethal levels of these products can experience problems flying, navigating, learning new tasks and experience reduced food consumption. But, if proper application rates are applied, no studies have shown acute or chronic toxicity to pollinators if levels were even detectable. To date, no effects have been observed in field studies with field realistic dosages. Also, to date field trials in comparison to laboratory studies have shown no negative effects from chronic exposure to neonicotinoids again when applied at recommended rates and application methods.

Where Does Our Industry Fit Into The Discussion?

The question before all of us now is, where does the commercial horticulture industry fit into the discussion of neonicotinoid use and its effect upon pollinators? Do the plants we grow for personal and commercial landscaping purposes in any way harm these creatures? It is again my hope that all applicators first read each pesticide label closely before treatments are made and then follow recommendations as listed. With correct use as listed by the manufacturer and approved by the EPA, we as growers can be both successful in our crop production and good stewards of our environment.

As I think about the possibility of actual chronic insecticide exposure to honeybees and other pollinators, I have a few questions. Can exposure to or ingestion of nectar and pollen from greenhouse-grown flowering plants treated with neonicotinoids harm pollinators? If so, why have only laboratory trials produced confirming results and not actual field trials?

Having owned two honeybee hives when I was younger, I have a fairly good background in the nature of honeybees. Recently I also conducted a quick search of bee facts. Here are some interesting facts that I would like to share:

• The average honeybee colony consists of 50,000 bees. Of that population, there is one queen, 50 to 100 drones (males) and the remainder of the population are the worker bees (non-fertile females).
• The queen lays 1,000 to 2,000 eggs per day to maintain the hives population of worker bees.
• The average life span of a worker bee is four to six weeks during spring/summer.
• On average, 2.5 million flower visits are required by honeybees to produce one pound of honey.
• The average honeybee hive produces 50 pounds of honey per year.
• The average honeybee harvest range in a nonagricultural setting is 2 miles.

After reviewing these facts, I have some compelling doubts about the impact any greenhouse-grown flowering plants treated with neonicotinoids may have on the overall health of honeybees. If we assume, and hope, the plants were treated properly with these materials at the greenhouse, and if any chemical was transferred to the pollen and nectar, it would be at very low, nonthreatening and EPA acceptable levels. Any direct or indirect exposure to these low, if present, levels would constitute a minimal, sub-lethal exposure that to date even controlled laboratory studies have shown little or no negative effect to the honeybee. Furthermore, considering the natural mortality rate of worker bees at approximately 17 to 20 percent per week in peak flight season, how much of an impact does any low level chronic exposure have upon the bees if such an effect were to even exist?

It has been written that any and all primary food sources for pollinators must be protected from chemical contamination. What constitutes a primary food source, 20 percent of overall hive food supply? If this is the case for honeybees, this figure would equal 10 pounds of honey produced, or the equivalent of 25 million flower visits, and all derived from harvesting nectar from within a 4 square mile urban or residential area. Now I would love to say that our industry is successful to such a point that the density of greenhouse grown and chemically treated plants were at such a density to supply 20 percent of the food needs to all pollinators, but I’m afraid reality does not support the math. Plus again, no studies have shown that responsible use of these products taint any potential food sources.

What’s Next?

Where do we go from here?

1) I believe our industry needs to unite and fund research to determine the actual effect, if any, that our greenhouse usage of neonicotinoid products has upon pollinators. This work needs to be conducted in the field, under actual urban and residential situations, and not solely under controlled laboratory conditions.

2) Trials need to be conducted, which reaffirm or adjust the recommended application rates for safe and effective pest protection from the use of these products.

3) All methods and timing of applications need to be studied to determine the safest and optimum techniques of usage. This is especially true in regard to drench applications.

4) Our industry needs to reach out to the environmental groups and express our sincere desire to seriously address this subject. We are all stewards of this earth and need to protect it.

5) When comprehensive facts are determined from actual field trials, we need to supply both the retailer and consumers with the studies facts and guidelines that have been determined for ensuring the safety of our environment.

6) We as an industry must diligently and consistently follow these guidelines for the safe and effective use of these products.

We are all in the business of growing and selling plants that improve the life experience of the citizens in our community. We must continue to offer plants to consumers which are of the quality and value that they have come to expect. But, we must also do so in a manner that does not harm our environment or the pollinators upon which our very food supply depends.

Topics:

Leave a Reply

5 comments on “Be Informed About Neonicotinoids And Pollinators

  1. Interesting take. Being in the horticulture industry since 1970, and a bee keeper for the last 27 years, not sure that we can say ‘not us’.

  2. Excellent piece. Growers or retailers that have stepped out and said we will sell neonic free product are not being straight with their customers unless they are growing 100% of their products. Try and get a FL flowering tropical that’s neonic free. The piece above talks about a responsible path. Greed, and praying on ill informed consumers that are headline readers only, is not a healthy place to be on this issue. Look for the real science that shows these chemicals are the problem – you won’t find it. Follow the Money – Enrich a few in particular organizations at the expense of tens of millions. Friends of the Earth announced a big win the last quarter of last year – $250,000 in new contributions to help administer save the bees… Typical. I’ve personally done a bunch of research around this, public domain. I’m no scientist, but then neither are the people that looked at 13 plants from 3 cities and created this nonsense. Our industry, as an important part of the AG community should know better than to try and benefit from this BS.

  3. I have personally been following this chemical for the last 5 years and if people will take the time to read the only studies that have been done, such as University of Northern Italy, there is strong evidence that these chemicals play a large role in the honey bee demise. I buy and sell these chemicals for a living and I am very familiar with them and the break-down action. This is one class of chemical that may cause damage for a very long time and has been banned for good reason in several European countries..

  4. Bees make honey. Honey is winter food. Honey is made from plant nectar. Honey lasts longer than individual bees, feeds the whole colony including new bees. Can you guarantee there are no.neonics in their honey? Also where are your references? There are several field studies that demonstrate long term chronic effects.

More From Crop Inputs...
Aphids On Older Leaves

July 25, 2016

How You Can Stop Aphids By Understanding Their Interactions With Plants

Knowing which aphids target which crops and how aphids colonize and move on plants goes a long way toward setting up an effective management plan.

Read More
Eretmocerus eremicus adult, Parasitic Wasp

July 2, 2016

Beneficial Predators Can Help Control Whiteflies On Poinsettia

Whitefly infestations are a reccuring problem that often plagues poinsettia growers. Successfully keep them in check by letting beneficial predators take the work out of pest control.

Read More
Greenhouse Whitefly

June 26, 2016

Michigan State University Offers Tips On Whitefly Management

Whiteflies are making headlines in Florida, but they are found across the U.S. Michigan State experts say it’s important to know how to manage each type of whitefly.

Read More
Latest Stories
Aphids On Older Leaves

July 25, 2016

How You Can Stop Aphids By Understanding Their Interact…

Knowing which aphids target which crops and how aphids colonize and move on plants goes a long way toward setting up an effective management plan.

Read More
BASF Orkestra Intrinsic

June 21, 2016

New Mode Of Action From BASF Offers Deeper Disease Cont…

When it comes to disease control, you need all the help you can get. BASF recently hosted growers, Extension personnel, and trade media to present its newest fungicide with two active ingredients, offering dual modes of action.

Read More
Nematodes-feature

June 4, 2016

New Biocontrols Provide Effective Pest Control In Green…

Biological chemistry manufacturers have introduced several new products recently that offer a range of insect and disease management options. Here’s a look at some of them.

Read More
Whitefly

June 2, 2016

Breaking News: Florida Growers Reporting Major Whitefly…

Reports have come from the Florida Keys to Palm Beach County that whitefly populations in landscapes are reaching unprecedented levels and are not responding to pesticide applications. Biotype-Q has been found in four different communities. University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Science researchers are working with USDA-APHIS, USDA-ARS, the Florida Department of Agriculture, and growers and landscape professionals to manage the developing problem.

Read More
Triathlon BA container shot

May 24, 2016

OHP’s Triathlon Biofungicide Now Listed By The Organic …

Triathlon BA is a broad-spectrum preventative biofungicide that provides control of many foliar and soilborne diseases in ornamentals and herbs.

Read More
Two-spotted spider mites, adults and eggs

May 11, 2016

SePRO Launches Summer Insecticide Management Program Fo…

The program is designed to help growers use SePRO’s insect management tools to prevent plant damage from a variety of pests.

Read More
Small Aphid Colony on Calibrachoa

May 2, 2016

How To Stop Aphids In The Greenhouse

When untreated, aphids damage ornamental crops and act as vectors for disease. Integrated Pest Management combined with vigilant scouting can help you stay ahead of the problem.

Read More
Cicada (Greg Hoover, Penn State)

April 26, 2016

Cicadas Set To Emerge In Several Eastern States This Sp…

While there’s no immediate cause for alarm, experts say the cicada’s egg-laying process can damage woody ornamentals and make them vulnerable to diseases.

Read More
Parisitic Wasp Aphidius colemani

April 25, 2016

Plant Growth Regulator Use Can Affect Biological Pest C…

The use of plant growth regulators may negatively influence the outcome of biological control programs, according to researchers at North Carolina State University.

Read More
Beneficial Insectary Orius insidiosus

April 22, 2016

Beneficial Insectary Increasing Production Of Three Bio…

The company is now producing Orius insidiosus, Dalotia coriaria, and Dicyphus hesperus at its California facility, reducing the transit time of perishable biocontrols between producer and grower.

Read More

April 21, 2016

Michigan State University Offers Tips On Greenhouse Soi…

Improper pH and higher than adequate nutrient levels are among the many reasons for regular soil testing.

Read More
Parasitized aphid mummies, ladybird beetle larvae

April 18, 2016

4 Things You Need To Know About Implementing Biological…

Biocontrols are useful alternatives to traditional pesticides that provide effective pest control in the greenhouse. Here are four ways to get started successfully.

Read More
John Wendorf Bayer Ornamentals

April 14, 2016

Bayer’s New Ornamentals Business Manager Aims To Help G…

John Wendorf, who previously managed BFG Supply’s grower division, says when Bayer launches into the ornamentals market this November, growers will have access to a wealth of resources, including a dedicated team focused on ornamentals growers.

Read More
Emerald Ash Borer

March 22, 2016

Canada Implements New Voluntary Biosecurity Standard Fo…

The voluntary standard is designed to protect the greenhouse, nursery, and floriculture industries from invasive plant pests.

Read More

March 22, 2016

EPA Approves Syngenta’s Mainspring GNL Insecticide For …

Featuring the active ingredient cyantraniliprole, Mainspring GNL provides broad-spectrum control of key pests, such as thrips, whiteflies, aphids, caterpillars, leafminers, and leaf-feeding beetles.

Read More
Black Root Rot on Vinca

March 15, 2016

How To Identify Different Root Rots In The Greenhouse

Root rots can cause similar symptoms on hosts. Here are some tips for scouting in your greenhouse.

Read More
One symptom of Botrytis blight is gray, fuzzy sporulation on foliage and flowers, similar to that shown on the flower of this hibiscus

March 11, 2016

Manage Botrytis With These Cultural And Fungicide Contr…

High relative humidity and low temperatures in the greenhouse open the way for Botrytis to develop on plants. A mix of cultural and fungicide control options will help you manage this common disease effectively.

Read More
Biocontrols and beneficials absolutely can be used in outdoor production, with the use of banker plant systems

March 8, 2016

France-Based InVivo Acquiring Bioline, Syngenta’s Bioco…

Bioline, a subsidiary of Syngenta, specializes in the production and marketing of biological control agents, and in particular macroorganisms active against insect pests in fruits, vegetables, and flowers.

Read More
[gravityform id="35" title="false" description="false"]