Neonicitionids* also known as neonics have been back in the news recently and we’ve received a number of queries about whether we use neonicitinoids to control pests?
Like the rest of the horticultural and agricultural industry, the use of neonicitinoids has been prohibited by law since 2018. Although the UK government retains the ability to use these chemicals under emergency powers. And they’ve recently approved a neonicitinoid to tackle Yellows Virus which has effected the sugar beet crop.
Here at Hardy’s we’d chosen not to use neonics well before the ban. We were concerned about the impact of these chemicals upon our pollinator and bee populations because of the way neonics work – see *
However we do have to manage pests and have adopted an integrated pest management system. We mainly use and rely on biological control such as nematodes and other bugs which will keep aphids, whitefly, two spotted mite at bay.
Biocontrol tends to be effective when temperatures are warmer, generally from Spring through to Autumn. And in most cases this is enough to keep any pests under control. However, should we have an outbreak of pests that is too much for our biological control, then we will use certain chemicals, but never those containing neonicitinoids.
As the majority of our plants are grown outside in the open air, we’d only target spray as a last resort and when absolutely necessary. And we’d only spray that crop twice within a season. Our plants are very much left to fend for themselves. And because of this approach we use less than 2 litres of chemicals a year. We’d love to be entirely chemical free, but sometimes it's just not possible, .
We’re delighted that biocontrol is increasingly becoming accessible to the amateur gardener, and this along with companion planting, can be very effective at keeping pests away from flowers, fruit and vegetables. Although it may need to be used alongside the occasional chemical treatment or fungicide.
For many years, we’ve hosted beehives with colonies of honey bees here at the nursery. In fact, if you visit us, it's likely you'll see 'Bee Aware signs'. While bees are non-aggressive, they can sting unwitting hands. We like you to be aware that they share our site and may be found hanging out on plants or on our bags of peat free growing media.
* Neonicitinoids are found in pesticides which have been widely used in agricultural and horticultural across the world. Because a neonic pesticide is absorbed by the whole plant, traces of the chemical can be found in all of the plant cells including in the pollen, nectar and roots. Exposure to low levels of these chemicals can be highly toxic to our bees and pollinators, and evidence shows that these chemicals can affect bees navigational, ‘buzzing’, learning and reproductive abilities. For more information about neonicitinoids see How neonicitinoids can kill Bees. The science behind the role these insecticides play in Harming Bees’, 2nd edition Xerces Society 2016