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Neonicotinoids, Honey Bees and A New Option

Many businesses and farms are acutely aware of the debate surrounding a specific class of pesticides known as “neonicotinoids” or “neonics” for short.  There are many studies as well as unfounded claims around this type of pesticide, mostly in an agricultural use for protecting crops such as corn and cotton.  I have kept up on the latest scientific research, which is still ongoing, as well as attending many professional industry meetings and presentations from local universities.

Here is my opinion and the reason why Chippers’ lawn care program will be one of the few, if not the only program to offer effective alternatives to using neonicotinoids in NH/VT.  In fact, we had made this choice and changed our product selection several years ago, but feel it is worthy of a blog article before another growing season begins.

There is no doubting the effectiveness, low cost and relative safety of neonicotinoids as they relate to pest reduction and control on a wide host of crops, including grub control in lawns.  Unfortunately, there is clear evidence that the use of this product, primarily in an agricultural setting, has unforeseen side effects. The main problem was and continues to be how the product is used in the field.  Drift of the product onto non-targeted plants and use around flowering trees, shrubs, and other plants show clear reduction in our valuable friend, the honey bee.

Selective use of any neonicotinoid is not possible if used while honey bees are gathering pollen from nearby trees and other flowering plants that have been coated by unintentional drift.  This recently discovered fact has even changed pesticide labels on neonicotinoids expressly stating they cannot be used while plants are flowering.  Furthermore, studies show that most neonicotinoids confuse honey bees and may in fact place undue pressure on their hives, leading to issues with their home colony and the ability to forage for food.  Wow.

So what does this mean to businesses in the lawn and plant health care industries like Chippers?  Knowledge is power and the evidence clearly supports utilizing alternative pesticides like Acelepryn for grub control.  Studies show that not only does Acelepryn not harm bees, but it is also much safer to the user (Chippers employees), the home owner (you), and other beneficial insects (ladybugs) when used to control grubs in a lawn.  However, Acelepryn is much more expensive than neonicotinoids because it is a new type of pesticide with the aforementioned desirable characteristics.

Should we stop using neonicotinoids, dropping them like the proverbial hot potato?  Probably not, and I’ll tell you why.  Since neonicotinoids are systemic in their mode of action (they travel inside the plant), they can be applied in different methods to either avoid or minimize risk to honey bees.  One example is injecting the pesticide directly into the ground so it is taken up by the roots, thereby avoiding a topical spray where drift might come into contact with flowers.  Chippers’ uses this approach in our Integrated Pest Management Program for tree and shrub care.

We also need to weigh the cost and benefit for other uses, such as the control of damaging borers for invasive pests like the Emerald Ash Borer.  EAB has gotten a lot of press recently in regards to how fast it is spreading and destroying valuable ash trees in the US.  NH has many counties now infected with EAB and neonicotinoids are a valuable tool in protecting and treating our ash trees.

Although the risk is low when using neonicotinoids, especially in a granular formulation in a lawn setting for grub control, we offer Acelepryn to our all our clients as an alternative for maintaining a healthy landscape.  I believe other lawn care companies will follow suit and offer Acelepryn and newer pesticides when it comes to providing the safest and most effective products for protecting lawns, trees, and landscapes…and honey bees.

Chippers currently uses Acelepryn as our sole grub control product around lakes and streams, not only in a liquid spray but a granular, zero phosphate-coated fertilizer.  In 2017, Acelepryn will be highly recommended and our choice product for all our clients, not just for use around water.  For more information or to discuss your lawn care program as it relates to grub control, please email or call anytime.

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