Hello Bee Friends,
Yesterday when I was cleaning up the leaves from a small section of my yard (yes, I wasn’t following my own rules for waiting a few more weeks!) I noticed a leaf that seemed like it was moving. When the sun came out from behind a cloud it opened up to this:
Angelwing Butterfly looks so beautiful with wings open
Angelwing Butterfly looks like a leaf with its wings closed
On to less beautiful, but more important things…
So much has been in the news about neonicotinoids, it’s hard to keep up, but … what are they really? And how do I know if I’m contributing to the problem or helping the bees?
What are Neonicotinoids?
Neonicotinoids are agricultural pesticides that are sprayed on fields to rid harmful insects that destroy food crops. They are also sprayed on seeds. These products are water-based and are absorbed into the system of the plant including the leaves, stems, flowers, nectar and pollen. They act on insects which eat or suck the juices of the plant by affecting the insect’s central nervous system. Neonicotinoids are related to nicotine. After ingesting any part of the plant, Neonicotinoids slowly kill the insect over hours or days. These chemicals were thought to be safer than previous pesticides, but increasingly, studies are showing that even low doses can be detrimental to bee’s foraging behaviors. Some studies like this one have shown that within 20 minutes of exposure, a bee will ‘forget’ where the flowers are, and other bees will have trouble ‘learning’ from other bees where to find the food.
Why are they so horrible?
A few weeks ago, I asked you what plants you were planning to buy to help the bees. Many plants tested at garden shops including Rona, Home Depot, Lowes, and Canadian Tire have been tested and found to contain traces of neonicotinoids in the flowers and pollen of plants. The Council of Canadians reported here and quoted below:
“…when researchers purchased 71 bee-friendly plants (including daisies, lavender, marigolds, asters and primrose) at 18 big box outlets across the United States and Canada, “more than half of the plants, the researchers measured neonicotinoid residues in the flowers at levels between 2 and 748 parts per billion. A dose of 192 parts per billion is enough to kill a honeybee, she says, and dozens of studies have found impairments in bee navigation, memory and foraging ability at between 4 and 30 parts per billion.
“In Canada, the CBC reported that a study found neonics in the flowers and pollen of plants tested from Rona, Canadian Tire and Home Depot in garden centres in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.”
Home Depot in both US and Canada requires its suppliers (in Canada as of Dec 2014) to label plants exposed to neonicotinoids. Lowes will phase out these by “the spring of 2019”.
Bee on Marigold – last year’s photo. I never checked with the Garden Shop if it contained any neonicotinoids. I will this year though.
How to help the Bees (and other beneficial insects like butterflies):
Many garden products may have neonicotinoids in them, and it’s often hard to know. Here is a list of products that contain neonics, and here is another list.
Some of the key ingredients to look for on labels of garden products – and avoid – are these:
But this doesn’t help when seeds or young nursery plants are exposed to these chemicals. Home Depot should now have these plants labelled, but not all garden shops have implemented this important change. If you have time, this an informative article that explains what effect these chemicals have on bees and other wildlife.
So, my lovely Bee Friends, this week you can do this to help the bees:
When you buy your spring plants this year, check if there is a label on the plant. If there isn’t, ask the garden shop what they are doing to help the bees by keeping the plants neonicotinoid free.
Bee nice to Bees!! 😀