Bayer has flagged up to ornamental growers that the neonicotinoid thiacloprid was not part of a recent EU moratorium that concerned the neonicotinoids clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam - and is permitted for use on the foliage of ornamental plants.
The supplier has highlighted the situation with thiacloprid following the announcement from B&Q that the retailer is to stop using any insecticides on its plants.
B&Q announced last week that its 2018 flowering plant range will be grown without the use of any neonicotinoid-based plant protection products, saying its position is a first for a UK retailer.
Growers use the approved neonicotinoids, thiacloprid and acetamaprid on pests such as aphids, whitefly and vine weevil.
Dr Julian Little, bee care spokesperson at Bayer, which makes thiacloprid, says: "The science and research shows that thiacloprid is so safe to bees that it can be used on open flowering oilseed rape. Plant growers have used this product safely for many years to control pests that otherwise cause serious damage to young seedlings and plants."
Three neonicotinoids - thiamethoxam, clothianidin and imidacloprid - are banned under a moratorium in the EU. In addition to those three restricted neonicotinoids, B&Q is also saying it will not stock plants that have been grown with acetamiprid, dinotefuran, nitenpyram, nithiazine, sulfoxaflor and thiacloprid.
Neither sulfoxaflor or nithiazine have approval in the UK as a plant-protection product and some chemical companies may disagree that they are a neonicotinoids. But some non-government organisations suggest they are.
B&Q head of horticulture Tim Clapp explains that the company's ban is specifically on treated lavenders from grower Coletta & Tyson, of which the retailer sells more than one million a year.
"Neonicotinoids are fundamentally not good so we have worked in conjunction with our growers to come up with a plan," he says. "We weren't large users anyway and now we have made a strong statement we won't use neonicotinoids at all. It's really important we show leadership on sustainability."
B&Q sustainability manager Rachel Bradley adds: "We are now able to confirm that, to further support pollinators, we are encouraging everyone to do more for wildlife and to that end we will ensure that none of the flowering plants we sell will be grown using any pesticide containing any of the nine neonicotinoids."
Approval on ornamentals
Dove Associates managing director John Adlam points out that both thiacloprid and acetamiprid have approval to use on ornamentals and have not been cited as being dangerous to bees in agriculture and are therefore not subject to the ban. "Without using neonicotinoids it becomes increasingly difficult for growers to guarantee a plant will be pest-free," he adds.
Thiacloprid is in Exemptor and Calypso and can be applied to the foliage of ornamental plants. Gazelle contains acetamiprid and is also used by ornamental growers.
Friends of the Earth is urging other retailers to follow B&Q's lead. The group's bee campaigner Nick Rau says: "This reflects growing scientific evidence since the ban in 2013 and growing public concern. Our position is it is not just these three neonicotinoids that are harmful. All neonicotinoids used as systemic pesticides should be banned.
"B&Q's commitment to ban pesticides linked to bee decline from its flowering plants range is fantastic news. We hope other garden centres and retailers will follow suit."
Garden centre consultant Neville Stein
"This initiative from B&Q is right in line with their environmental and sustainability policies so it's no surprise that they are working with their suppliers to only sell plants that are grown neonicotinoid free.
"If B&Q heavily promote this to their customers there could be growing public awareness of the issue which would then put pressure on other retailers to follow suit and stock plants that are neonicotinoid-free.
"At the moment there is probably little awareness and I would suspect that very few customers have gone into their local garden centre and asked the question about how plants are grown, but perhaps other retailers should follow B&Q's initiative."