According to Hewson... responsible 'neonics' use should continue

Unless you've been on another planet, you'll be familiar with the word "neonicotinoids" - they've been all over the news, alongside UKIP and their cheery leader Nigel Farage.

In case you've missed out, neonicotinoids, or "neonics" as they're affectionately known among science groupies, are a class of chemicals derived from naturally occurring plant compounds (nicotines, surprisingly enough), some of which are authorised for use as insecticides in the UK and EU.

The reason for the fuss is that some are acutely toxic to bees and have been recently linked to a decline in their population.

One such chemical, imidacloprid, is of particular interest to growers of bedding/pot plants and hardy nursery stock because it is used for the control of pests, most notably aphids and whiteflies, including those that have evolved a resistance to other insecticides.

As such, they are especially useful and I must confess to being rather fond of them. Interestingly, other 'neonic' active ingredients (notably, acetamiprid) are of less concern because they are far less acutely toxic to bees and are structurally different. Thank heaven for that.

No one of course wants to see fewer bees working their magic, although a decline in their numbers is not new in the UK.

In the 1950s, for example, there were 50 species of native bees and now there are nearly half that number, while the number of non-native bees has increased (contributing perhaps to the decline of native bees). The situation is further complicated by the presence of the Varroa Mite amid the UK honeybee population ...

Anyway, the EU has announced new restrictions on the use of certain neonicotinoids (including imidacloprid), chiefly it appears in relation to their use on flowering crops attractive to bees, although quite how these restrictions will impact on ornamentals has yet to be established.

I hope common sense will prevail and the responsible use of neonicotinoids will continue to be permitted.

Andrew Hewson is a freelance writer and columnist.


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