‘Say No to Neonics’ petition: Seedball & the Wildlife Trusts call for support to safeguard British Wildlife

The wildflower company, Seedball has teamed up with the Wildlife Trusts to increase awareness about the impacts of neonicotinoids on wildlife, especially bee populations.

bee on brunnera flower

With the Wildlife Trusts declaring the fourth annual approval of neonics a ‘deathblow’ for wildlife and a betrayal of farmers who strive to produce food sustainably. Dr. Emily Lambert and Dr Ana Attlee, conservation scientists and founders of Seedball, are collaborating with The Wildlife Trusts to encourage the public to act and safeguard British wildlife through the ‘Say No to Neonics’ petition.

For the fourth year running, the UK government has approved the ‘emergency’ use of bee-harming pesticide, thiamethoxam, a type of banned neonicotinoid in the EU. This decision comes in the wake of the European Court of Justice’s ruling last year, which deemed such pesticides, along with others detrimental to wildlife, as unlawful. Notably, this move contrasts with the UK government’s stance at the 2022 COP15 summit in Montreal, where it advocated for global pesticide reduction.

Neonicotinoids came onto the market in 1994 and have become the most widely used insecticides across the globe, outside of Europe. There are several variants, including imidacloprid, thiamethoxam, clothianidin and acetamiprid, all of which are synthetic variations of nicotine. In 2018, the UK and EU banned the use of three neonicotinoids, including thiamethoxam, for outdoor agricultural applications due to the deadly impact it had on bees.

Neonicotinoids are neurotoxins which kill all arthropods at tiny doses. For example, the dose needed of imidacloprid to kill 50% of honeybees is 4 billionths of a gram, meaning that just 1 teaspoon is enough to wipe out around 1.25 billion bees – neonicotinoids are often described as ‘Novichok for bees’ because of the deadly consequences they have on them. Even minuscule doses of the approved thiamethoxam, can result in impaired learning, decreased navigational ability, lowered resistance to disease and reduced fertility – in any dose, and in any case, neonicotinoids are harmful and destructive to bee populations and wider wildlife.

The UK government states that emergency applications should not be granted more than once to protect wildlife but has recently renewed the permittance of use for a fourth year. Ignoring the advice of its own expert committee that cited potential impacts on mature honeybees, other vital pollinators, and aquatic creatures as reasons that the application should be rejected.

The impacts of neonicotinoids stretch even further than the demise of honeybees, with other serious environmental concerns over their use.

Neonicotinoids remain persistent in the soil and continue to accumulate over time. They dissolve in water and often wash away from soil and into rivers and waterways and are often detected in water samples at unsafe levels. Being systemic, they are also found in nectar and pollen of treated crops, leading to further exposure and impact on insects, with concentrations high enough to impact colony reproduction in bumblebees. Additionally, even non-target crops like wildflowers and hedgerows are impacted, as their roots pick up the chemicals, leading to further impact and exposure to wildlife.

The levels of neonicotinoids found in different places, like soil, water, and plants, are often way higher than what’s needed to kill pests, and they can harm helpful bugs too. Although birds are less affected, eating seeds treated with these pesticides during planting can still make them sick or even kill them.

To find out more about the petition, visit the Wildlife Trusts website.