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New insecticide threat to bees

One of the joys of Ridgeway has been the immediate success of the small wild flower meadow we sowed in the front garden. The land had been churned up by a trench to put the electricity supply underground, the removal of an apple tree killed by honey fungus and heavy trucks. Dealing with this gave us the opportunity to sow a wild flower mix from Walnes, the seed merchants in the next village, Earl Soham.

They told us we should get some flowers this year but were not prepared for the blaze of colour of corn cockle, cornflower, corn marigold, vetch, mallow, knapweed, ox-eye daisies and more. There were some we did not want including thistles.

Cornflowers were among the first to establish themselves in our small meadow. People have been stopping us in the street to say how much they loved the wild flowers.

Cornflowers were among the first to establish themselves in our small meadow. People have been stopping us in the street to say how much they loved the wild flowers.

The flowers immediately attracted bees, butterflies and other insects. There were quite a lot of bees but fewer honey bees than we had hoped for. The idea of another insecticide to threaten bees fills us with horror.

But this week I have learned that the Canadian authorities are likely to approve a systemic insecticide called flupyradifurone. A blog post by David Suzuki who runs an environmental foundation in Canada alerted me to the threat. He explains the situation well:

Flupyradifurone is an insect-killing systemic pesticide similar to the controversial neonicotinoid, or neonic, family of bee-killing chemicals. When applied to seeds or soil, it’s absorbed by plant roots and travels to leaves, flowers, pollen and nectar, making the plant potentially toxic to insects.

This past summer, the international Task Force on Systemic Pesticides analyzed 800 scientific studies and concluded that systemic pesticides like neonics are harming bees, butterflies, birds and worms and should be phased out globally. The European Union banned three neonics for “crops attractive to bees”, but the European Environment Agency says that’s just a starting point, and recommends regulators look at similar pesticides and take into account potential harmful effects on aquatic invertebrates, birds and other insects. The EEA also found “mounting scientific evidence has been systematically suppressed for many years and early warnings were ignored.”

Bayer Crop Science who want to sell this chemical around the world under the name Sivanto has applied to the EU for approval and want to get it by the end of next year.

The company has a web site devoted to promoting Sivanto which includes this:

Can SIVANTO® prime be applied during bloom and bee flight on crops attractive to bees?

All the results of extensive lab and field testing under worst-case exposure scenarios indicate that SIVANTO® prime has a low intrinsic toxicity to adult and immature stages of honey bees. Studies indicate that SIVANTO® prime has no adverse effects on foraging honey bees, their foraging activity, brood and colony development, hive vitality and honey bee health or on over-wintering colonies when used according to label instructions.

Note the “used according to label instructions” and contrast it with this from Health Canada, the regulatory body there:

Flupyradifurone may pose a risk to bees, non-target beneficial arthropods, and freshwater and saltwater invertebrates when used for foliar application. Flupyradifurone may pose a risk to birds and small wild mammals when used for soybean seed treatment.

Flupyradifurone can enter the environment when it is used as an insecticide for control of a large number of pests in a variety of crops. It can be applied as a foliar spray, as a soil drench and as a seed treatment. Flupyradifurone is systemic and, therefore, can reach pollen and nectar through its movement inside the plant.

However, in a later section, the Health Canada report says:

To mitigate the potential effects of flupyradifurone to bees, foliar applications are to be made in the early morning or evening when bees are not actively foraging, and measures to reduce drift are to be followed, as specified on the label of Sivanto 200 SL.

So its OK then because every potential user will follow the instructions on the label exactly. And if they do they are  only “mitigating” (make less severe, serious, or painful) not eliminating the danger. The case against flupyradifurone being approved for use anywhere seem to me to be clear. I am not a scientists but you don’t need to be a scientist to understand that last sentence quoted from the regulatory body which is apparently set to give its approval.



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