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Honey I killed the bees! Or did I…?

Two bees on a honeycomb

The debate over use of neonicotinoids is still raging. The European Commission has now placed a two year ban on three chemicals which are known to harm bees. But what about those still on sale?

Late last year the European Commission ruled that three neonicotinoids which are known to be harmful to bees should be banned for two years, while others remain on sale.

And now a group of independent scientists from around the world known as the Task Force on Systemic Pesticides (TSFP) published its findings on the impact of neonicotinoids. The report, known as the Worldwide Integrated Assessment, reviews the findings of around 850 scientific studies. It concludes that neonicotinoids are bad news all round – not just for bees, but for other species too. The TSFP now wants a full ban on all neonicotinoids.

Should you bee concerned?

Manufacturers insist that the remaining neonicotinoids are fine as long as they’re used sensibly and according to the instructions.

They argue that the research undertaken is not true to life, and that bees are subjected to higher exposure than they would be in the wild. Some say that other factors, such as a parasite known as Varroa Mite, are more likely to be causing bee decline.

The last time we talked about neonicotinoids, H. Mount thought a blanket ban was the answer:

‘As a keen gardener who has hives belonging to a local beekeeper in my garden I feel really strongly that the evidence against neonicotinoids and their effect on the bee population is proven. They should be banned as quickly as possible.’

Do you agree with H. Mount and the TSFP that there should be a full ban on neonicotinoids? Or do you think the action that has been taken is enough? And I’d also be interested to hear if you’ve taken any steps to make your garden bee friendly.

Do you use neonicotinoids?

No (76%, 309 Votes)

I don't have garden (16%, 67 Votes)

Yes (8%, 31 Votes)

Total Voters: 407

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May I suggest a poll on whether we think neonicotinoids should be banned. Reading this article is very informative but there are hundreds of others on the Web to add weight to an already worrying situation.


I do have a vested interest I get honey from my sister-in-laws hives. Buying plants for your garden also means avoiding seed and plants that have been treated with the neonics.


Thanks Diesel, that’s a good idea (maybe next time!) but we’d like to find out about how widely neonicotinoids are used in people’s gardens. Very interested to hear views about a ban in the comments though! So everyone – don’t hesitate to share your views 🙂


Most chemicals that are harmful to one living organism are harmful to others. That’s why it’s so hard to develop antibiotics that will kill bacteria and fungi without harming humans. The number of gardening products that have been banned from sale in the past few decades is frightening.

I would like to see gardening chemicals phased out. In some cases, safe alternatives such as biological control exist, where natural predators can be used to deal with pests.

The bigger issue is of course commercial agriculture. The one thing we can be sure of is that companies that produce neonicotinoids and other agrochemicals should not be trusted if they claim that products are safe. There is plenty of evidence to show that such claims made by companies have proved not to be true in the past.


Thanks wavechange – do you garden and do you use neonicotinoids or any sprays? If not – how do you keep a handle on pests?


I don’t believe that I have ever bought any products containing neonicotinoids. For slugs I use ferric phosphate pellets, which are a better choice than metaldehyde (that should have been banned years ago). For aphids I spray with a commercial product containing fatty acids – effectively soap. The most effective way I have found of dealing with pests is to choose plants that are less affected. For example I have replaced roses that were affected by black spot with ones that are little affected, on the recommendation of a friend who is a keen gardener.

I no longer grow fruit and veg, largely because it was a challenge to do this without pesticides. Maybe choosing resistant varieties could have helped.


Thanks wavechange – that’s really interesting. It is tough to keep pests away from fruit and veg but I personally find root veg is a good solution. I’ve grown rainbow beetroot recently and although the slugs have been at the leaves I’ve had a nice crop of beets!


That sounds like a good idea Amy. It’s not something I have tried.


As bees and other pollinating insects are vital to both gardeners and commercial crop producers we must clearly avoid damaging their numbers.
As a gardener, I use Tagetes in the greenhouse to avoid whitefly, soap solution to dispose of greenfly, slug pellets to protect newly-planted stuff but otherwise let nature take its course and take what food is left. I’ve given up on cabbages because of the butterfly – even found netting unsuccessful.
For commercial food production we need so much that losing a significant part of the crop is both a problem financially and can lead to food shortages. On the radio tonight farmers growing oil seed rape claimed 25% of the plants were lost to flea beatles – controlled before by neonicotinoids apparently. I am not sure biological control can work on such a scale – and are there consequences from releasing huge numbers of the predatory beasts?
“Something must be done” – is there a solution? Perhaps part of it could be to use our own gardens more productively and cut down on the fruit and vegetables we need to purchase. And grow insect-friendly flowers. Dig for victory might return.


There are various well understood problems with biological control, including cost and the fact that it is often too specific, but compared with chemical warfare on pests it is generally regarded as very safe provided you do not use non-native control species. The Tagetes you have mentioned is an example of biological control.

We might be able to choose to grow plants that are pest-resistant in our gardens but this is more difficult in agriculture. There is no doubt in my mind that we need to do research to find safe alternatives to neonicotinoids and other chemical pesticides, so that they can be consigned to the history books, with DDT and the like.