Honey traps
Amateur Gardening|March 20, 2021
Banned chemicals are causing havoc with bees, says Val
Val Bourne

MOST gardeners know that neonicotinoids, used to control harmful insects, also damage valuable pollinators including wild populations of bees. They’re usually used in seed dressings, but these motile chemicals spread through the plant’s tissues and then contaminate pollen and nectar.

Studies have shown that, once ingested, they prompt an 85% drop in the production of queens in Bombus terrestris, the buff-tailed bumblebee, and 50% in Osmia bicornis, the red mason bee. Fewer queens mean much smaller colonies, and many bees are already in decline due to loss of habitat, so they don’t need an extra chemical cosh.

The heaviest applications in the UK are on crops of oilseed rape, those bilious blasts of yellow. Flea beetles damage this crop at an early stage, but bees are really attracted to the flowers, and one year all my red mason bees disappeared into a flowering field of rape not far from the house. They were never seen in the garden again! Evidence says that the nicotine in the nectar and pollen is as addictive to bees as cigarettes are to humans.

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