Bee collecting pollen and nectar

Neonicotinoid Pesticides Banned by Bunnings and the EU

Bunnings announced in 2018 that pesticides based on neonicotinoids would be phased out by the end of 2018. On April 27, 2018, the European Union banned the use of the three neonicotinoids on open ground. This is an expansion of the moratorium introduced in 2013 on the use of these pesticides on flowering crops.

Usage of Pesticides

Seeds are often coated with pesticides to protect them from soil pests. The pesticide is absorbed when the seed germinates and then spreads through the plant as it grows, finding its way to the pollen and nectar. This is where the honey bees and native bees, as well as other pollinators, are exposed to the poison.

Pesticides based on Neonicotinoids

Neonicotinoids are believed to be part of the massive die-off of bees and other insects that has occurred in Europe in recent times. The three neonicotinoids banned on open grounds are thiamethoxam, clothianidin, and imidacloprid.

Neonicotinoid Pesticides Banned by Bunnings and EU due to harm to bees.
Neonicotinoid Pesticides Banned by Bunnings and EU due to potential harm to bees.

Study of neonicotinoid pesticides by York University

A study by York University in Canada showed that long term exposure to neonicotinoids resulted in a reduction in the health of bees whose hives were near the cornfields being studied. Simiarly, earlier studies have shown that large amounts of neonicotinoids in pollen and nectar are fatal to both honey bee queens and workers. Smaller amounts have been shown to reduce the health of bees by inhibiting the bee’s natural foraging as well as adversely affecting the bees' tolerance to other farm chemicals.

Bees will collect pollen from corn, even though it is wind pollinated.
Honey bee collecting pollen on corn in an agriculture field. Bees will collect pollen from corn, even though it is wind pollinated.

Whilst other studies have produced mixed results, the situation for insects in Europe is now critical. The earth has survived without these pesticides for millions of years, but pollenating insects like bees are vital to life on earth. If you are buying pesticides for your garden, avoid those with thiamethoxam, clothianidin, or imidacloprid in the ingredients. It is not worth the risk to vital pollinating insects.

Fortunately, the retailer Bunnings has already decided to remove neonicotinoid pesticides from their shelves by the end of 2018 as a precaution. If you are a gardener or a landscaper working in garden maintenance, review your pesticide use and avoid thiamethoxam, clothianidin, or imidacloprid on open ground.

More recently, in the USA, Connecticut, Maryland, Vermont, Massachusetts, Maine, and New Jersey have enacted laws limiting the use of neonicotinoid insecticides.

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More Information on Neonicotinoids

Bunnings to pull pesticide allegedly linked to bee deaths

Beekeepers call for a ban on neonicotinoids.

European agency concludes controversial ‘neonic’ pesticides threaten bees

Blue Fairy Wren

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Magpie birched at Birds of Paradise Flower.

Wildlife In The Garden

Australian cities are rapidly expanding into greenfield areas to accommodate our way of life. However, this is threatening the habitats of Australia’s wildlife in the garden. In order to sustain healthy populations of native wildlife, we need to adapt our methods of gardening in urban environments.
While the average suburban backyard is not likely to become a sanctuary for threatened wildlife, by making a few simple planting choices, you can reduce the threat of native animals reaching the endangered species list.

Importance of Wildlife in our Ecosystem

Plants and animals evolve together in what is known as a symbiotic relationship. Animals help with pollination, seed distribution, and germination. The plants, in return, provide habitat, protection, and food. Choosing locally indigenous plants for your garden is essentially creating a preferred habitat and food source for local indigenous animals. Aiding native animals over generations will in turn provide them with a genetic advantage over introduced species, as they will continue to evolve with their companion plants.

Food Source Control of Invasive Species

Additionally, choosing locally indigenous plants protects them from unwanted pests. Plants evolve to produce phytochemicals that poison and deter insects. However, an insect species will co-evolve with one type of plant. For an example of this, take a look at our blog on eucalypts. Over thousands of years, as the plant evolves to produce greater amounts of phytochemicals, the insect evolves to produce greater amounts of inhibitors. These block the phytochemicals' effects. A species of insect is so fixated on its co-evolved species of plant that it will not recognize any other plant as a potential food source.

Choosing indigenous plants and weeding out invasive species will kill off an insect’s food source and irradiate an introduced foreign pest. For example, foreign pests such as fire ants are one of the greatest threats to agriculture and horticulture industries. The current epidemic of fire ants is set to cost Queenslanders billions and poses a bio-security risk to the natural habitat. The fire ant epidemic arose when the killer ants hitched a ride on palm trees imported from Mexico.

Indigenous Palms

Queensland’s tropical climate combined with foreign palms creates an attractive environment for these invasive insects. However, indigenous palms support native and non-invasive insects. The desire for foreign palms contributes to a great financial and environmental cost.
By choosing native plants over non-native, wildlife habitats and urban environments can not only co-exist but also thrive together. As such, it is crucial that this idea be widely adopted by the populace and, in particular, by town planners, urban and landscape designers, and even the home gardener. In doing so, we can work to prevent future bio security risks and we can prevent further damage to our landscape and agriculture industries.

Most importantly, however, we can restore safe and healthy habitats for Australian wildlife. It is also important to be careful with any pesticides you choose. Recently, the European Union has banned the use of the three neonicotinoid pesticides on open ground, and Bunnings has decided to phase them out in Australia. A great way to encourage birds and other wildlife to visit your garden is to set aside an area as a natural habitat that also encourages pollinating insects to visit your garden.

A photo of a juvenile Cracticus nigrogularis, more commonly known as the "Pied Butcher Bird".

This bird sings complex flute like melodies, the most common of which shares some characteristics with Beethoven’s 5th symphony. His home is the beautiful Cupaniopsis anacardioides, more commonly known as the Tuckeroo Tree. Both plants and animals are indigenous to most parts of northern and eastern Australia.

Wildlife in the Garden article published by Callum O’Brien For more information on natives, please visit my horticulture and landscaping blog.

Blue Fairy Wren - Reds Landscaping and Design
Insects in your garden will attract wildlife insectivores like the Blue Fairy Wren.

For more information on the Tuckeroo Tree (Cupaniopsis anacardioides), download Cupaniopsis_anacardioides.pdf.

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