Fall 2014 Field Observations: The Neonicotinoids
by James A. Bethke
The most pressing issue the industry is facing at the moment is the reaction that the big box stores and other customers of ornamental plants have to the neonicotinoid issue. One of the most common calls I have been receiving is from growers who want alternatives to the neonicotinoids because their customers are demanding it. This is in deference to the conclusions of many of the scientists studying the issue and the reviews of the scientific literature by many U.S., U.K. and Australian scientific committees. Regardless, we are having to respond to the needs of the ornamental plant producers in our area.
There is much science that still needs to be done. Nevertheless, even though the jury is still out on this issue, there is considerable public complaint from those who believe that the neonicotinoids are the cause of bee decline or colony collapse disorder.
For one scientist, Dr. Lu of Harvard University, the cause cannot be anything but the neonicotinoids, “… Lu had a hunch that pesticides, above all, were to blame for the vanishing bees. He wasn’t the first to see a connection, but he was determined to prove one” (http://www.bostonglobe.com/magazine/2013/06/22/the-harvard-scientist-linking-pesticides-honeybee-colony-collapse-disorder/nXvIA5I6IcxFRxEOc8tpFI/story.html). The basis for this statement is a precursor to very poor science.
The bottom line is that bee decline and colony collapse disorder was occurring long before the neonicotinoids were widely used on the market. However, it is a fashionable thing to be anti-pesticide, especially if your customers are easily swayed in that direction.
James A. Bethke
Farm Advisor, Nurseries and Floriculture
UC Cooperative Extension San Diego, North County Office
151 E. Carmel St., San Marcos, CA 92078
(760) 752-4715 phone; (760) 752-4725 fax