Animals, Claire Ryan, Current Issues, Flowers

bee

Yesterday a European commission vote passed a ban on neonicotinoid pesticide use. One of the major arguments against implementing this ban was farmers’ worries about a loss in income. British farmers have been spraying pesticide “insurance” treatments to prevent crop loss and damage, for over a decade. It is unlikely that treatment is necessary for all crop pests on such a regular basis.

Now that the EU has banned this class of harmful pesticides it is time for UK farmers to begin rethinking their approaches to pest management, and build new techniques in order to maintain healthy habitats for our wildlife.

There are plenty of options for farmers, include planting wildlife strips, using trap cropping, and choosing different crop varieties. Wildlife farming may play a key part in sustaining pollinators, keeping crops pest free while still keeping farmers and consumers happy.

The sowing of floral strips – mini wildlife strips that border a crop – can be extremely beneficial. When planted with native wildflower species the benefits are innumerable. Wildflowers maintain biological diversity by acting as a refuge for many wild species such as bees, hoverflies, and butterflies. Many of these are pollinators which provide economic benefits to the farmers’ crops. Floral strips are also home to the larvae of hoverflies, which play a part as natural pest control, as they feed on aphids.

Other options exist, such as trap cropping, for example using turnip rape which attract the pests away from the main crop to the companion crop. Reducing field plot sizes also improves biological control. Crop rotations can be diversified: a narrow rotation of wheat – wheat – oilseed rape can be replaced by rotations that include peas before oilseed rape, and growing sunflowers between wheat years. Farmers can also take advantage of the appropriate crop varieties, choosing those that are tolerant or resistant to diseases transferred by key pests.

More information can also be found in this fact sheet by the Pesticide Action Network UK.

Claire small Claire is a member the Primrose marketing team, working on online marketing.

She trained as a Botanist and has an MSc in Plant Diversity where she specialised in Plant and Bumblebee ecology.

She writes our ecology themed articles.

See all of Claire’s posts.

Animals, Claire Ryan, Current Issues, Flowers

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Our Environment Secretary Owen Paterson is looking at the consequences of restricting the use of imadacloprid, the most widely used insecticide in the world. A series of publications appeared in 2012 bringing the severe impact of this insecticide to light. Over the past few weeks the media have latched on to this and discussion is building around the idea to ban this particular pesticide. The current debate centralises on the impacts for farmers and the chemical companies which profit from pesticide production.

What is imadacloprid?

Imadacloprid is a chemical insecticide known as a neonicitinoid. This toxin was selected for its purpose as it is more toxic to insects than to mammals. It irreversibly blocks insect nervous systems causing paralysis and death. It is applied and injected into plants and soil in many different ways, as a seed treatment, and in liquid or granular form. As it is systemic, once taken up by roots it can be transported to all parts of the plant. Thus any insect visitor can become poisoned via feeding on pollen or nectar. Imadacloprid builds up in the soil year on year, with many crops being treated multiple times a year.

Why should I care about bees?

As most people know pollinators such as bees are vital for food production. Bumblebees are our most efficient pollinator and for a range of reasons their populations have been falling. Starvation and habitat loss due to insufficient food sources are frequently cited as major factors, but pesticide misuse is clearly one of the biggest issues that need to be overcome if we want to bring back the sound of Summer.

What can I do?

There is a lot you can do in your own garden to help boost bumblebee numbers. By planting colourful pollinator-friendly plants throughout the Spring and Summer you can attract bees and butterflies. When buying plants check with your garden centre to find out if they’ve used neonicitinoids. We sell a selection of pollinator friendly plants in our plants section and as Spring draws near we will be letting you know more about what plants are best to help you create a wildlife garden.

You can also support Charities such as the Bumblebee Conservation Trust.

It took ten years from the publication of Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring until DDT was banned in the US in 1972. DDT was a chemical pesticide used in large quantities regardless of a lack of a full understanding on its harmful impacts on ecology and human health, and was not banned in The UK until 1984. The toxicity of imadacloprid has resulted in both France and Germany banning the use of the toxin, and The UK is now under pressure to take action too.

Petition your MP to make your voice heard.

Claire small Claire is a member the Primrose marketing team, working on online marketing.

She trained as a Botanist and has an MSc in Plant Diversity where she specialised in Plant and Bumblebee ecology.

She writes our ecology themed articles.

Charlotte, Events, Guest Posts, Insects

Amid the excitement and success of the National Garden SleepOut I was keen to use the event as an opportunity to educate my children regarding its purpose. In addition to being a fabulous excuse to have fun under canvas, the SleepOut raised awareness of important issues in the UK and abroad. Two charities were supported by the event and I spent some time discovering more about these causes and how they related to our own lives. I was keen to see what they could teach us and whether this changes the way we utilise and manage our garden.

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Events, Flowers, Insects

Bumblebee Conservation Trust UK charity logoThe second charity we’re supporting for this year’s National Garden SleepOut is the Bumblebee Conservation Trust.

In the past 80 years, the number of bees has been plummeting and two species of bumblebee have even become extinct in the UK. Bees are vital to the health of the ecosystem because they serve as pollinators — allowing flowers, fruit and veg to continue reproducing.

White-tailed bumblebee photo
The UK countryside has changed over the years, reducing the number of wildflowers across the country, and with it the number of bees. BBCT works with farmers, policy-makers, and the public to spread awareness of bee-friendly planting methods to help bring our bees back in full force.

You can test how bee-friendly your garden is with the Trust’s Bee Kind tool, and you and your children can learn all about bumblebees over at Bumble Kids.

You can find more information on volunteering, donating, or BBCT’s projects at their website: wwww.bumblebeeconservation.org.

Bumblebee pollinating flowers illustration