Pyrethrum is one of the best known botanical insecticides, effective against a wide variety of insect pests and generally considered safe to use. Is it really safe? To answer any question about pyrethrum it must first be explained that what is referred to as “pyrethrum” can be many different products. There is pyrethrum, the raw flowers; pyrethrins,the extracts from the flowers; and pyrethroids, synthetic pyrethrum. In addition many other insecticides and enhancers are often added to formulations which are called “pyrethrum”.
Pesticides were never a good idea. They were designed to make money from petroleum, not to benefit the public good. Pesticides, fungicides and herbicides are poisons that were developed to kill life. Not only has this approach poisoned our earth and ourselves, it has failed to control Nature. Our soils are less productive, and weeds and pests have adapted by becoming resistant. Stronger poisons are not the answer.
In the last 20 years, the new “nicotine” pesticides (neonicotinoids) have become the industry standards because they are less toxic to people and animals than the old organophophate pesticides, and that is good. But the neonicotinoids (neonics) are even more toxic to insects; they last 3 months to 5 years; all parts of the plants are poison, and the poison goes into our water.
At last! Spring is officially here and more plants are starting to bloom, providing much needed pollen and nectar for bees. You should be seeing honeybees and queen bumblebees feeding on dandelions, the ubiquitous and pretty weed Redstem Filaree (Erodium cicutarium), the fantastic, long-blooming Golden Storksbill (Erodium chrysanthum) – not a weed!, Creeping Phlox, Maple trees, tulips, crocus, Crown Imperial Fritillaria, and other spring-blooming bulbs. Soon the willows that grow along our creeks and ravines will have their inconspicuous bloom which provides pollen, and there have even been a few flowering crabapples starting to bud and leaf out. The time of abundance is near as apples and other fruit trees unfurl. Native bees will begin emerging from their winter nests and will be flocking to these plants as well.
“You can join the fight to save the honeybees by planting a pollinator-supporting garden.” This is a recommendation made by a Penn. State Master Gardener program. Is this weird? Not at all. The European Parliament has approved creating bee “recovery zones” across the Continent. These recovery zones will provide bees with nectar and pollen in areas that are free from pesticides. Why is it a big deal that honeybee populations around the world are declining? One reason is that one third of the human diet comes from plants that are pollinated by honeybees. Another reason is that honeybees may be the “canary in the coal mine”; just the first to show that there is a problem that hasn’t yet surfaced in other pollinators and other beings.