My panda is back after World Wildlife Day 2022

I noted a few thoughts at PandaPolish by Pandammonium:

The loss of nature would be a terrible thing to happen to our planet, the climate is in crisis, and yet governments are not only not doing enough, but they are actively taking retrograde steps to favour profit over nature.

The use of neonicotinoids

The UK government has recently derogated the use of the neonicotinoid Cruiser [1] SB [2] (thiamethoxam [1,2,6]) to coat sugar beet seeds to be planted in 2022 [3,4]. Neonicotinoids have been found to be harmful to honeybees [5,9:38], which are already in decline in the UK. The UK government can, by law, permit the use of neonicotinoids under certain conditions [4:5]. This does not necessarily mean that coated seeds will be used:

A similar emergency authorisation for the pesticide Cruiser SB was granted in 2021. More details can be found within the Statement on the decision to issue – with strict conditions – emergency authorisation to use a product containing a neonicotinoid to treat sugar beet seed in 2021 (14 January 2021).

The conditions attached meant that there was no actual application of the pesticide. The Government had required a forecast virus level of 9% of the national sugar beet area for the pesticide to be used. The forecast was produced on 1 March 2021, and it predicted that only 8.37% of the crop would be affected, due to the low winter temperatures.

[6:8]

Due to the cold weather in January and February 2021, the virus yellows forecast run on 1 March indicated that virus infection in 2021 was relatively low and below the threshold at which the treatment was permitted under the authorisation.

Therefore Cruiser SB was not used on sugar beet crops planted in 2021.

[4:8]

The weather in January and February 2022 has been quite mild, as I recall, so, alas, it’s probably not been cold enough to prevent its use this year.

Cruiser SB and aphids

Cruiser SB is used to prevent peach-potato aphids (Myzus persicae) infecting sugar beet with virus yellows (VY), which is harmful to sugar beet, causing loss of yield and therefore profit. This money is apparently worth more than the damage to the environment. Not only is the use of Cruiser SB harmful to bees, the conditions of its usage mean that no flowering crop [is] to be planted in the same field as treated sugar beet within 32 months [4:7], which will remove swathes of potential sources of pollen for bees. Let’s not forget the aphids who are killed.

A bee on a plank of wood. Where are the flowers?

The use of Cruiser SB is dependent on the results of the national Rothamsted Model [7], which uses aphid data from the Rothamsted Insect Survey and a statistical model to produce a forecast of potential infection levels due to VY that is issued on the 1st of March each year [8]. The forecast level of incidence is 68.9%; because the 19% threshold trigger for 2022 has been reached, Cruiser SB seed treatment will be applied to sugar beet seed [7:1].

The use of Cruiser SB means the use of yet more noxious chemicals: herbicides to kill any flowering plants that might tempt pollinators to the danger zone [7:2]. There must be no further use of thiamethoxam seed treatments on the same field within 46 months [4:7], which effectively means that a different crop should be planted afterwards. There are only certain crops permitted to be planted in the same field [7:2]. There are no statements about the effect of thiamethoxam on insect parasites of these plants.

Hope for the future?

After all this doom and gloom for honeybees and aphids, there may be some good news, at least for the bees:

In the 2022 decision, the Government said that there is currently no straight replacement for neonicotinoids but by 2023, the sugar beet sector hopes to no longer require neonicotinoid treatments. It is believed that the development of more pest-resistant crops and be using a more integrated pest management approach will suffice.

[4:8]

Of course, more pest management means fewer aphids, which means less food for those that eat them: ladybirds, hoverfly larvae, lacewing larvae, predatory midge larvae, various species of parasitoid wasps, earwigs, predatory beetles and birds, including blue tits [10]. Less food for these creatures means fewer of these creatures, which means fewer of the creatures that eat them. All so that we can have British sugar to rot our teeth with and make us fat.

References

  1. Syngenta. Cruiser
  2. Agrobase. Cruiser SB
  3. Gideon Henderson, Defra Chief Scientific Advisor (1 December 2021, updated 2 March 2022). Defra’s Chief Scientific Adviser’s advice on the use of Cruise SB for sugar beet: use of Cruiser SB for sugar beet in 2022
  4. Alexander Bellis and Agnieszka Suchenia (31 January 2022). Government approval for the use of neonicotinoids and the impact on bees Commons Library Debate Pack Number CDP 2022/0024
  5. Jennifer Hopwood, Aimee Code, Mace Vaughan, David Biddinger, Matthew Shepherd, Scott Hoffman Black, Eric Lee-Mäder and Celeste Mazzacano (2016). How neonicotinoids can kill bees: the science behind the role these insecticides play in harming bees. 2nd ed. The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation
  6. Emergency Registration Report (29 October 2021). Product name: Cruiser SB, active substance: thiamethoxam 600g/l. United Kingdom. Applicant: NFU sugar and British Sugar, submission date: 29 June 2021, finalisation date (post ECP): 29 Oct 2021, HSE Ref Number: COP 2021/01344
  7. BBRO (1 March 2022). BBRO Advisory Bulletin Special. British Beet Research Organisation, Centrum, Norwich Research Park, Colney Lane, Norwich, NR4 7UG
  8. James R Bell and Andrew Mead (January 1990). A comprehensive sugar beet virus yellows model. Sugar Beet Review, vol.90, no.1, pp.12–15. British Sugar
  9. Gabrielle Garton Grimwood and Emma Downing (20 July 2017). Bees and neonicotinoids. House of Commons Library Briefing Paper Number 06656
  10. RHS. Aphid predators

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