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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The coming of cosmos
Warmer temperatures, new varieties and the greater accessibility of plugs have made comos a must-have plant for gardens this summer, says Graham Rice
Focus on... Vertical gardening
If space is tight, worry not, as you can still grow fruit and veg if you are prepared to raise your game. Lucy explains how you can take edible gardens to new heights
The beautiful game
Gardening is a lot like football, says Toby, as he presents some clever tricks you need to try before the final whistle
It's time to water
After a dry spring, Ruth shows how to maximise water It’s time to water
Time to get tough
Do you understand hardening off, or know if you’re doing it right? Bob explains how to ‘toughen up’ your plants
Rooms with a view
Plan your plantings to favour your windows
Pruning early bloomers
Ruth cuts back the year’s first flowering shrubs
While not true asters, half-hardy China asters come in a gorgeous array of tastefully soft colours and can be planted straight into the ground in May, says Graham Rice
Create your own Herb garden
Herbs can be used to heal, add flavour to food and are beautiful to look at. As many are also easy to grow, why not add some to your garden, says Camilla Phelps
Dealing with late frosts
Don’t pack away garden thermals just yet
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