Insecticide alert for home gardeners, lawn keepers and yardscapers
There have been several reports over the past months about the harm that a certain kind of pesticide called neonicotinoids does to honey bees and bumble bees and another one has been previewed prior to its publication in a June issue of Insectology. What many people might not realize is that these chemicals are found in common home lawn and garden products easily found on the shelves of greenhouses and nurseries, hardware and big box stores. Homeowners’ application levels are much higher than those studied in the mostly agricultural use of the insecticides as a seed coating. The labels of these products do not carry a warning that they can injure bees or other beneficial insects, and at least one has an illustration of a monarch butterfly caterpillar on its list of targeted insects.
The Xerces Society online report, Are Neonicotinoids Killing Bees (webpage: http://www.xerces.org/neonicotinoids-and-bees/; pdf: http://www.xerces.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/Are-Neonicotinoids-Killing-Bees_Xerces-Society1.pdf) presents a table listing commonly found products that have these insecticides as their active ingredients. A survey of nursery, hardware and big box stores in the Rockport and Camden area did not find all the products listed but did find quite a few that were not on the list. Here is the list of products including ones I found. Shoppers should read the label for active ingredients identification for all products even though the print is tiny and often the color makes it difficult to read. Note also that other insecticides kill bees and beneficial insects — after all, they are insects — and have no place in a garden environment if people want to attract pollinators and butterflies.
Readily available products containing neonicotinoids shown to harm bees:
Insecticide product, trademark name:
Acetamiprid: Ortho Flower, Fruit and Vegetable Insect Killer
Ortho Rose and Flower Insect Killer
Ortho Bug-B-Gon Garden Insect Killer
Ortho Bug-B-Gon Insect and Disease Control Concentrate
Ortho Bug-B-Gon Systemic Insect Killer
Bayer Advanced All-in-One Rose & Flower Care granules
Green Light Grub Control with Arena
Green Light Tree & Shrub Insect Control with Safari 2 G
Zylam 20SG Systemic Turf Insecticide
(Nb. I did not find any containing clothianidin locally)
Imidacloprid: Bayer Advanced 3-in-1 Insect, Disease, & Mite Control
Bayer Advanced 12 Month Tree & Shrub Insect Control
Bayer Advanced 12 Month Tree & Shrub Protect & Feed
Bayer Advanced Fruit, Citrus & Vegetable Insect Control
Bayer Advanced All-in-One Rose & Flower Care concentrate
Bayer Advanced Rose and Flower Insect Killer
Bayer Advanced Insect Control and Fertilizer Plant Spikes
Bayer Advanced Complete Insect Killer for Soil and Turf
Bayer Advanced Grub Control and Turf Revitalizer
Bayer Advanced Season-long Grub Control
Bonide Annual Tree and Shrub Insect Control
Bonide Guard and Grow 2-in-1 Systemic
Bonide Grub Beater
Bonide Systemic Granules Insect Control
(DIY Tree Care Products Multi-Insect Killer)
(Ferti-lome 2-N-1 Systemic)
(Hi-Yield Systemic Insect Spray)
(Knockout Ready-To-Use Grub Killer)
(Monterey Once a Year Insect Control II)
(Ortho Bug B Gon Year-Long Tree & Shrub Insect Control)
Ortho MAX Tree & Shrub Insect Control
Ortho Bug-B-Gon Rose and Flower Inset Killer plus Miracle Grow
(Surrender Brand GrubZ Out)
Maxide Dual Action Insect Killer
(Nb. I did not find any containing thiamethoxam locally)
These insecticide products, although relatively non-toxic to humans and other vertebrates, have some insidious effects, and this list is not complete:
1. They are systemic and are transported throughout the plant so they are found in all parts including nectar and pollen. This is what threatens bees and other insects that eat or collect, in the case of bees, nectar and pollen.
2. They persist for a long time in the soil and in the plant tissue, sometimes up to months or years so a tree that was treated last year might still be putting out poisoned pollen.
3. They can find their way into plants that have not been treated as seeds germinate in treated areas — think of wildflowers that pop up in lawns and edges of properties. If people treat their lawn for grubs with these products, dandelions that are important forage for bees can be contaminated, for example.
4. If you plant trees, shrubs or other nursery products, or even purchase pots of plants for your patio, you might be inadvertently bringing them onto your property because in most cases it is impossible to know how or which plants have been treated.
Hopefully no one wants to intentionally harm bees, both the non-native honey bees which we rely on for so many of our food and forage crops and the ubiquitous but mostly unnoticed native bees. Most people are not aware that native bees — Maine has about 240 species — also contribute to plant pollination in a significant way. Many of these species are smaller than honey and bumble bees and do not forage far from their nesting areas so they might be even at higher risk from local applications of neonicotinoids. And furthermore, hardly anything is known about the effects of these pesticides on native bees or other beneficial insects and insects we always want to attract to our properties such as butterflies.
As a beekeeper and advocate for native bees and other beneficial insects, I urge gardeners and lawn maintainers, homeowners as well as professionals, to avoid using these products. Ask how plants are grown at nurseries and find alternatives to plants that have been doused with chemicals. Gardeners have an opportunity to provide plants that are safe for bees and other insects to forage on and in that way, their garden or yard habitat can offer a refuge to our important pollinators and other flower foragers.
Amy Campbell lives in Rockport.