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Recently, the EU has temporarily banned neonicotinoid pesticides because there are strong indications that these pesticides are responsible for the decline in bee populations. I've heard that this pesticide is not only used in bug sprays, but also in seemingly innocent products like flower bulbs, plant plugs and certain types of compost.

Is this true? If so, how do I make sure I don’t already have this stuff at home? How can I recognise products or brands that contain/use these pesticides?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 9 down vote accepted

Since nobody answered, I thought I’d post an answer with what I’ve been able to find out myself

Types

There is a list of 7 different neonicotinoid insecticides on Wikipedia:

  • Acetamiprid
  • Clothianidin
  • Dinotefuran
  • Imidacloprid
  • Nitenpyram
  • Thiacloprid
  • Thiamethoxam

Some say that Sulfoxaflor is also a neonicotinoid, but not everyone agrees with this.

The neonicotinoid insecticide that is most commonly used is Imidacloprid. I'm not sure if manufacturers are obliged to put the name of these substances on all their products, so these names might not show up on a product.

Brands

Bayer is the company that has invented Imidacloprid and also seems to sell the most products that have this stuff in them, so careful when buying stuff from them. Other brand names:

Admire, Advantage (Advocate) (flea killer for pets), Confidor, Conguard, Gaucho, Hachikusan, Intercept, Kohinor, Mallet, Maxforce Quantum, Merit, Nuprid, Optrol, Premise, Prothor, Provado, Turfthor, Temprid (Bayer), Winner, and Xytect (source wikipedia)

I also found this list with products that contain neonicotinoids, but there is no date so I’m not sure how old the list is and if it is complete (probably not). The EU has decided that all countries have 1 year to start with the ban, so it’s possible that products with neonicotinoids in them are still being sold.

Application

Apparentely there are many uses for neonicotinoids:

it can be applied by soil injection, tree injection, application to the skin of the plant, broadcast foliar, ground application as a granular or liquid formulation, or as a pesticide-coated seed treatment. (source: wikipedia)

I read that Imidacloprid is taken up by plants and trees and remains present in their flowers or seeds so I suspect there is no way of knowing for sure whether a tree, plant, flower bulb, or seed contains neonicotinoids without labtests. The safest choice is probably to buy organic plants, bulbs and seeds.

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I just came across this page as I was looking for a list of products with neonicotinoids in them. I found a list for the UK and another one for the US. The Xerces Society link includes links to additional articles with slightly different lists of products.

I have also heard nurseries use potting soil with neonicotinoids in the potted plants they sell. Haven't been able to track that down since nurseries I ask have no idea what is in their potting soil. Since neonicotinoids in soil is even more toxic, I suggest buying smaller plants, thereby getting less possible contaminants (saves money too!).

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Welcome to Sustainable Living! How would buying smaller plants reduce the amount of contaminants? Personally, I suspect that the older a plant is, the more neonicotinoids from the soil are broken down, so that would mean the exact opposite of what you are saying. –  THelper Aug 14 '13 at 8:39
    
@THelper, my guess is that jojobeelady's rationale is that smaller plants come from the nursery in smaller pots, which have less soil. Therefore, less pesticide. You might be right about plants breaking down the pesticides in the soil over time, but the problem is that, in a nursery, plants don't stay in the same pots forever. As plants get older (without being sold yet), they'll be moved into bigger pots, at which point, I'm guessing they add more of the same type of potting soil. So, more pesticide. –  Nate Aug 15 '13 at 1:07
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@THelper, also this link suggests two things: (1) plants may not be sufficiently breaking down the chemical over time, and (2) the bees are ingesting the chemical not directly through the soil, but through the plants' pollen and nectar. So, the contaminants are being moved from the soil, into the plant, and to the bees. If that's true, then I think the advice to buy smaller plants is excellent. In addition, that's good general advice, as small plants adapt better to new locations than more mature plants. –  Nate Aug 15 '13 at 1:27

I found what looks to be a fairly comprehensive (and easily printable!) list of products to avoid here:

http://www.beyondpesticides.org/pollinators/documents/pesticide_list_final.pdf

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