Do it for the Birds–Ditching Imidacloprid

do it for the birdsWhile browsing the news online this morning I came across an article from the Smithsonian which talks about a study that found a link between the neonicotinoid pesticides like Imidacloprid and a decline in local bird populations. The pesticide has been found to have an impact on non-targeted insects which comprise a good portion of the diet of certain birds. We already know that Imidacloprid is toxic to bees and and also has a moderately low toxicity to fish, so why are we still using it? Because we have to? The truth is, most home gardeners don’t even need it. Just like you did with food ingredients, now is the time to read the labels on pesticides and start making better choices. Here is a list of popular products containing Imidacloprid and safer choices to use instead.

Rose & Flower Problems.

rose and flower nullBayer’s Rose & Flower All-In-One (this also includes their Two-in-One products, liquid or granular) is probably the most commonly reached for pesticide containing Imidacloprid. It does work for many people in helping to keep their roses fertilized and bug free. Most of my clients, however, tell me it does a pretty poor job on handling fungus and disease. The good news is there are less toxic products that can be used to handle the bugs and to fertilize. There are also less toxic products that handle the disease even better. For fertilizing I find nothing beats using Dr. Earth Organic 3 Rose & Flower Fertilize. dr earth roseIt’s slow release which means you only apply it every two months March thru October. In sandy soil like mine, the slow release fertilizer doesn’t get washed away with the first watering. And applying it every two months is something I can work into my schedule.

For dealing with pests my first line of defense is a plant pressure washer of some sort (you can either make your own by following the instructions here or purchase a Bug Blaster here). Blasting the bug into oblivion is not only beneficial to your plants but oddly satisfying. The water pressure is strong enough to crush and wash bugs off your plants but not so strong it damages leaves and blossoms. This process leaves your plants bug free and beautiful in minutes with no pesticides or toxic residues that might harm beneficial insects like bees or animal life like birds.

neem oil useAnother method of dealing with pests and also fungus and disease is a product containing Neem oil.Bonide Concentrate Neem Oil Insect Repellent is safe enough to use on food crops but works on common rose loving insects like aphids and whitefly (even helps with rose slugs) and also knocks back powdery mildew and blockspot if used during the early onset of the diseases. I find application is best done with a pressurized pump sprayer and a bottle of concentrate will last me more than two years. If you have a large number of leaves affected by fungus or diease, I find Safer Brand Garden Fungicide (which contains sulfur and is OMRI certified for organic gardens) a bit more effective than neem oil.

Vegetable & Herb Problems

vegetable bayerAnother product containing Imidacloprid is Bayer’s Fruit, Citrus & Vegetable Insect Control. Honestly this product has always confounded me. Of all the places we want to encourage bees, our vegetable gardens and fruit orchards are certainly tops on the list. So why would you use a product that states on its own label, “Do not apply until after trees have flowered or when bees are actively foraging.” Wouldn’t it be safer just to forgo it altogether? For the most common vegetable garden insect problems like aphids, whitefly and mites, neem oil is quite effective and leaves no toxic residue.

Bayer is certainly not the only product containing Imidacloprid and Imidacloprid is not the only neonicotinoid on the market. They are just the most commonly used by home gardeners. If you love birds and bees as much as I do, however, it really is time to start reading labels and really understand the products you are using. You can find a list of other neonicotinoids and the products that contain them here.



By Bird eating insect photo by Carol Carpenter from Hertfordshire UK (BirdUploaded by Snowmanradio) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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