Bee-friendly sprays for your garden
If you’re a gardener you might already know about neonicotinoids and the effect they’re thought to be having on bees. For anyone who hasn’t yet heard of them, neonicotinoids are a group of pesticides made with similar chemicals to nicotine that are suspected to be contributing to colony collapse disorder (the abrupt disappearance of worker bees) and the death of millions of bees worldwide.
These pesticides persist in the environment for a long time and have been affecting bees in unexpected ways through dust, pollen and nectar. In fact earlier this year the European Food Safety Authority stated that neonicotinoids pose an unacceptably high risk to bees, and that the industry-sponsored science upon which regulatory agencies’ claims of safety have relied may be flawed. On April 29 2013, the European Union passed a two-year ban on neonicotinoid insecticides, while they conduct further research, because of the potential link with bee colony collapse disorder.
Despite this neonicotinoids make up at least a quarter of the world’s insecticides and reliance on them continues to increase.
Here in New Zealand where they are mainly used on crops and as a seed treatment there are no such restrictions. In a recent Stuff article a spokesperson for federated farmers said that New Zealand’s less restrictive but cautious approach with neonicotinoids is appropriate, until a scientific consensus can be formed about them, but is it worth the risk? How many bees will have to disappear before we also put better protections in place or better still, ban them altogether?
Neonicotinoids are also used in many garden insecticide sprays but it’s actually pretty easy to make your own at home using ingredients from your kitchen cupboard.
Recipe for an all-purpose insect spray for organic gardens:
- Chop, grind, or liquefy a garlic bulb and a small onion.
- Add 1 tsp of cayenne pepper and mix all ingredients with 1 litre of water.
- Let the liquid steep for about an hour before straining through a clean piece of cheesecloth or fine muslin.
- Add 1 tabsp of ecostore dishwashing liquid to the strained liquid and mix well.
- Pour into a clean, labelled spray bottle.
- Spray your plants thoroughly, including leaf undersides.
- Mixture can be stored for up to a week in the fridge.
Bee-friendly practices in your garden:
- If you’re buying a pesticide spray from a garden centre then please check the label and make sure it does not contain neonicotinoids.
- When using pesticides in your garden, spray in the evenings after the bees have gone to bed.
- Plant bee-friendly flowers.
If you have any other bee-friendly tips to share we’d love to hear them.