A question to the Scottish Forestry on the use of neonicotinoids

An Arran resident and Voice reader contacted us recently with a question for the Scottish Forestry –

I want to ask a question, as a beekeeper, to the Forestry Commission whether they have used or are using any neonicotinoids
anywhere on their land and to ask them to explain how and why they use them?

We contacted the Forestry with this question and include their response below. It seems that one neonicotinoid pesticide, acetamiprid, is used as a last resort in certain situations to treat tree weevils. It therefore could be a risk to other insects including bees in the vicinity of newly planted forestry where acetamiprid has been used. A spokesperson for Forestry and Land Scotland explained:

“The Hylobius weevil is probably the most serious pest of newly planted trees on forest replanting sites. It has the potential to kill 50 per cent of recently planted trees on a site and costs the UK forestry sector £5million in damage each year.

“We make use of a suite of non-chemical control measures to reduce the impact of this pest as far possible, such as leaving sites fallow for five years to disrupt the weevil life-cycle. However, where these alternatives fail we will, as an absolute last resort, make use of the insecticide Acetamiprid.

“Where pesticide use is unavoidable, our young trees are pre-treated in an off-site tree nursery or building, and this might be combined with later post planting treatment applied directly to the foliage and stem of the tree using a hand sprayer.

“This amounts to no more than 0.037 g of Acetamiprid active ingredient per tree supporting its establishment to then grow for decades to come.

“All these treatments are carried in a way that minimises environmental impact and our usage is well within the limits set in the UK by the Health and Safety Executive.

“We are involved in industry-wide ongoing research in to the development of alternative, non-chemical solutions to the problem of Hylobius control.”

Additional information –

• The use of acetamiprid up until 2033 was recently (March 2019) approved by the EU, which has one of the strictest pesticide regulatory systems in the world. The Chemicals Regulation Division of HSE also considers that it presents no unacceptable risk to consumers, operators, bystanders and the wider environment if used correctly.

• Restrictions on three other neonicotinoids (thiamethoxam, clothianidin and imidacloprid), voted through by Member States on 27 April 2018. Acetamiprid is not subject to those restrictions.

With thanks to the Forestry Commission and the Voice reader for contacting us about this issue. If any reader would like to comment, provide any information or ask further questions about this, please get in touch.