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Monday, January 12, 2015

Imidacloprid and Bee Decline Linkage

Q. I don't like what I'm reading about Imidacloprid and wanted to know if there is a better insecticide that won't harms bees.

A. Trade names for this chemical name include Gaucho, Admire, Merit, Advantage, Confidor, Provado and Winner.This particular pesticide has a lot of problems and will probably be eliminated in the not-too-distant future because of these problems. Unfortunately, this pesticide is extremely good at what it does and fills a pest control niche that few other pesticides, if any, currently can fill.

We need other choices. The niche that it fills is a very effective borer killer that is systemic and for the most part gives you season-long control. Some of the same reasons it is so good may make it also dangerous to use. Even though the label allows for its use on fruit trees for example, I discourage people from applying it to those trees because it is systemic. I believe that any systemic insecticide has the potential to enter the food that we eat.

Method of application protects bees. Methods of application have a lot to do with exposure to bees. Those pesticides which are applied as a liquid or as a foliar application to the leaves and stems of plants have a higher probability of coming in contact with bees than the same pesticide applied as a soil drench. Soil drenches are liquids applied to the soil and rarely come in contact with bees.

Common products containing Imidicloprid.
Be careful of plants treated. However, this particular insecticide is systemic and can be transported from the roots of plants to the flowers that bees may visit. So in the case of this particular insecticide applying it as a soil drench may still be a problem for bees that visit flowers of plants that were treated with a soil drench. The larval form of many butterflies and moths rely on the leaves of some plants as a food source. Systemic insecticides applied as a soil drench may also be a problem for these insects.

Best use for this pesticide? If we are to continue to use this insecticide perhaps its best use might be as a soil drench on trees and shrubs that are nonflowering and are not used as a food source by anything that we value.

Alternatives? As for alternatives, I do not know one that is this effective for borer control. If we are talking about borer control then prevention is the key. This means preventing sunburn to these plants and keeping them actively growing and healthy is a partial solution.

As for other insect pests that it controls you have many alternatives. However, these alternatives will probably not be as persistent so you will have to apply them more often.

Whenever your focus is on protecting bees you must consider how toxic the chemical is toward these critters, avoiding applications when plants are in flower, applying foliar pesticides at very early morning hours or at dusk when bees have gone home, using pesticides which have a very short life after they are applied and are not persistent in the environment. And even more importantly we must begin to think about the use of pesticides as a last resort, not a first choice when there is a problem.

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