Buglife chief executive Matt Shardlow confirmed that a campaign from NGOs will begin next year: "Gardeners are mortified and feel conned when they are buying flowers for bees from garden centres that are saturated with neonicotinoids that poison the pollinators they are trying to help."
A Friends of the Earth Gardeners Beware report in 2014 found neonicotinoid residues were detected in 36 out of 71 (51 per cent) of commercial nursery plant samples. In 2013 Greenpeace International published A Toxic Eden: Poisons in your Garden and found 43 per cent of the samples contained Imidacloprid, eight per cent Thiamethoxam and seven per cent Clothianidin.
Shardlow said: "It's not just about what people apply to their garden plants, it's about hidden toxins from the garden centre. Neonicotinoids are often used to treat seeds and the soil in pot plants. Our position at the moment is all neonicotinoids should be banned."
He added that since Greenpeace's report: "As a result of that paper the horticulture industry has been silent and is hoping it will go away. There is no need to use neonicotinoids in the garden. They are widely found to be damaging to wildlife and there is no safe way to use them."
Shardlow said many studies have found neonicotinoids confuse bees and stop them returning to hives efficiently, but "hardly any work has been done on their impact in gardens".
Within commercially available pesticides, Bayer has replaced Thiacloprid, a neonicotinoid, with Deltamethrin, a pyrethroid, in Provado Ultimate Bug Killer. But Scotts Bug Clear Ultra and Rose Clear Ultra incorporating the neonicotinoid acetamiprid are still on sale. Scotts has no plan to change the formulation at present (see box).
Shardlow said: "Bug Clear is probably the last big one out there. Using pesticides in the garden is very rarely justified." He added that there is no campaign at the moment on glyphosate. "Papers are concerning but we need to do further analysis. It's more complex than neonicotinoids because it is designed to impact plants but can also impact wildlife by getting rid of flowers gardeners may call weeds, which is going to reduce habitats for many insects. But there are not enough studies to reach a firm conclusion whether glyphosate in the garden will directly impact bee populations."
Monsanto UK business director Gary Philpotts said: "There is a wealth of data available to regulatory authorities around the world dating back more than 40 years. This data is used to periodically evaluate glyphosate suitability for approval. There are also a number of studies prescribed by the authorities to ensure that substances do not pose any unacceptable risks to human health, the environment and wildlife."
The British Protected Ornamentals Association (BPOA) said growers should broadcast that they are using neonicotinoids. BPOA secretary Simon Davenport said: "If you have got a strong argument you ought to let your customer know about it. That's much better than constantly trying to defend your position."
He added that the recent BPOA study tour to the USA saw Bell Nursery promoting its use of neonicotinoids to consumers, explaining why they use them and the problems caused if they did not. "They're a legitimate product," said Davenport. "Everyone recognises there are less actives but insect problems still exist."
BUG CLEAR ULTRA: No plans to change formulation of product
Buglife's Matt Shardlow has called for the withdrawal of the last neonicotinoid on the consumer controls market, following Bayer replacing Thiacloprid in Provado Ultimate Bug Killer with Deltamethrin this September.
But Scotts said it has no intention of changing Bug Clear Ultra's formulation: "There are no plans to change the active ingredient, acetamiprid, in Bug Clear Ultra. Not all neonicotinoids have the same bee toxicity profiles and it should not just come down to the class of active ingredient. Scotts Miracle-Gro is always reviewing its formulations to ensure we are providing our customers with products that meet and fulfil their needs while always being mindful of all aspects of human and environmental health. We have not been under any regulatory pressure to withdraw our products in the UK or elsewhere."