when good flowere turn bad 2

Making sure the flowers you grow don’t harm bees

Many common garden sprays, and pyrethrum before it has dried, can be harmful to bees. Some systemic pesticides and fungicides are even being directly linked to colony collapse.

All labels on gardening products do tell you if they are safe for bees or not and warn not to spray when bees are about. Some of these products are systemic pesticides and fungicides which means their active ingredient remains in the plant tissue well after the spray has been applied. Traces of these residual chemicals remain in the plant and the nectar and pollen it produces. When bees and other pollinators gather the nectar and pollen from these poisoned plants they are exposed. This exposure can result in paralysis and even death of the bee. The death of bees is collateral damage of these applications.

The systemic insecticide family called Neonicotinoid is designed to effect the central nervous system of insects causing paralysis before death. It is the most widely used insecticide in the world and has been directly linked to colony collapse disorder. Germany, France, Italy, Poland, the Netherlands, Slovenia and the State of Oregon in the USA have banned or restricted its use but here in New Zealand its use is prevalent and alarming since bee numbers are in serious decline.

Neonicotinoid in sprays and coated onto seeds are toxic to bees in very low concentrations. It doesn’t make sense to use chemicals which kill bees when there are so many effective chemical free alternatives to deal with the grubs, aphids and other insects.

A pollen hotel can be a great food source for a bee, but when a flower has residual systemic chemicals within it, it becomes a bee death trap.

Read this recent article for more in-depth discussion on Neonicotinoids.

We will be doing more posts on products that are detrimental to bees and alternatives that are bee friendly.

Also check out the post on What seeds are safe for bees?


Why we love Bees

Bees are part of the free engineering developed for us by nature that help make our food system work. Nearly all the fruits we eat require bees or other insects to pollinate their flowers so that they can actually produce a fruit. Much of New Zealand’s economy relies on the free pollination service provided by bees. Without bees we would find it very difficult to grow beans, plums, tomatoes and strawberries. If we want to continue to be gifted this free service then we need to provide safe and secure food sources for them.


Not all seeds are safe for bees

Seeds that are artificially coloured; white, pink, red, blue and green, may be coated in chemicals that are harmful to bees. Seeds with a blue coating may be treated with copper which is considered “organic”, however,  they are still avoided by biological farmers who believe them to be detrimental to the biological engine beneath the soil that generates long term fertility as as little as 3ppm of copper can be toxic to soil fungi.

It has been determined by a vast number of international non industry research studies that chemicals from the Neonicotinoid insecticide family and some fungicides that are coated on seeds are contributing to colony collapse.

Neonicotinoids are systemic chemicals meaning they move throughout the plants entire system, from the coating on the seed, including the nectar, at levels which are toxic to bees as with most insects. The chemical manufacturer advises that these chemicals should never be used on plants that may be visited by bees, but that doesn’t seem to have been applied when using them to coat your seeds.

It is very hard to tell which treated seeds do or do not have neonicotinoid insecticide or harmful fungicides on them. The chemical combinations are so varied that even experts struggle to keep abreast of what combination is what. In addition, here in New Zealand there is little public knowledge about the issues around the use of these chemical treatments and the side-effects these could have on our agricultural, horticultural industries and pollinating systems in the short and long term.  New Zealand labeling laws are inadequate and many packets of seeds have little or no information about what their seeds are treated with.

It is likely that the products called Poncho and Gaucho that are produced by Bayer are being used in New Zealand to treat seeds. These include imidacloprid, which is one of the most common neonictenoids used. A seed supplier we talked to said they had noticed an increase in the use of treated seeds by well over 60 % in the last three years. This suggests treated seeds and plants grown from these seeds are now widely spread throughout the country.

So to be sure you are not planting a seed that is going to harm a bee once it has grown into a flower try to use organic seeds which will have been grown and harvested in a way that means they will be good healthy seeds in the first place, and make sure you ask for untreated seed or seed treated with Trichoderma which are beneficial fungi that help protect and feed the seed.

Of these 3 different seeds in our picture one of them is treated. Most untreated seeds look natural and have a varied surface. By placing a focus on using good healthy seed stock and creating healthy living soil you can eliminate the need for chemical support in the first place. Both industry and non industry research shows chemical applications may stop particular bugs or fungi attacking a plant, but they always compromise the overall health of the plant and the quality of the produce it grows.

Many countries overseas are banning these detrimental products as the plight of the bee becomes a serious concern.

Read this article for more information on the general state of play here in New Zealand.

Click to download Pdf safety data sheets for:
— Poncho
— Gaucho

Check out the posts on the processes and products we are using to help our seeds in our Pasture Paintings get the best start by building robust biology.

Sprays that harm bees

Products that harm bees or other things…including us.

Yates-Confidor-Ready to use Insecticide (registered to Bayer distributed by Yates)label states-Harmful to terrestrial invertebrates. Toxic to Bees. Avoid contact with skin and inhalation of spray mist. Has a 3 day holding period when sprayed on food.

Kiwicare-Spectrum label states-Store away from foodstuffs, children. Avoid contact with skin and inhalation of spray. Wash hands and exposed skin after use. Do not use around food or animal feed producing plants. Harmful to aquatic life. Do not spray on flowers if they are likely to be visited by bees.

Yates-Natures Way-Pyrethrum Is a natural insect spray but is harmful to bees if they make contact with it when its wet.

Yates-Soil Insect Killer label states-This products may be harmful if swallowed, absorbed by the skin or inhaled. May impair human fertility and the nervous system of the unborn child if taken orally in repeated high doses. Harmful to mammals, birds, insects, earthworms, bees and aquatic life.

Yates-Natures Way-Insect and Mite Spray label states-May cause  irritation to skin and eyes. May be slightly harmful to the aquatic life.

Yates-Natures Way-Fungus Spray label states-The material maybe harmful if swallowed, inhaled or absorbed through the skin. May cause eye irritation and an allergic reaction following skin contact. May harm the digestive system or liver if taken orally at repeated high doses. very toxic to aquatic life and may harm mammals and birds.

Enviro Shield-Residual insecticide stays active for weeks-Deadly to insects Kind to the environment label states-Toxic to fish. Harmful if swallowed…inhaled. May cause skin and eye irritation. Do not spray near food.

Yates-Champ DP Copper Fungicide label states-This product is corrosive and may cause sever eye irritation and eye damage. May be harmful if swallowed, inhaled or absorbed by the skin. Harmful to the lungs through prolonged or repeated exposure at high doses. May cause skin irritation or an allergic skin reaction. Very toxic to the aquatic environment. Toxic to fish. Harmful to mammals and birds.

Yates-Copper Oxychloride label states-Harmful if swallowed, inhaled or absorbed through the skin. May cause  severe eye irritation. May harm digestive  system or liver if taken orally at repeated doses. Very toxic to aquatic life, mammals and birds. Do not allow drift over aquatic environment, or onto other crops. May cause harm to soft plant tissue…may russet fruit.Keep children, pets, wildlife and birds away from treated areas until spray is dry.

Yates-Blitzhem Pellets-Kills slugs and snails label states-Do not apply to edible plants. On pasture withhold stock for seven days. Maybe harmful if swallowed. Mild eye irritant. May impair human fertility or cause damage to the unborn child, liver or digestive system if taken orally at repeated high doses. Maybe slightly harmful to the aquatic environment. Keep pets off treated areas. Accidental poisoning may be fatal.

Yates-Baysol Snail and  Slug Bait label states- May be harmful if swallowed, inhaled or absorbed through skin.May cause organ damage from repeated oral exposure. Toxic to aquatic life. Toxic to terrestrial vertebrates. Harmful to terrestrial invertebrates. May be harmful to soil environment.

The Glyphosate based products below don’t give you much information at all on their labels. This interview however explains how it works and what effect it has. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ed9b-JIAa1Q

Monsanto-Roundup label states-Avoid contact with eyes and avoid breathing spray mist. When spraying wear suitable boots and cotton overalls. Wash exposed skin before meals and after work. Wash clothing after use. Avoid contaminating water supply with the chemical or empty container. Avoid contact with desirable plants and if accidentally sprayed hose off immediately to reduce injury.

Kiwicare-Weed Weapon Dead To The Roots Dead Quick label states-Do not use around fruit vines, avocados or sensitive plants. Avoid spray contact with foliage, new bark or near roots of desirable plants. Do not use around food or animal feed producing plants. Avoid contamination of waterways. Avoid contact with eyes and skin and inhalation of spray.

Yates-Zero Rapid 1-Hour Action Weedkiller label states-This substance may be harmful if swallowed or inhaled. May cause eye irritation or mild skin irritation…designed for biocidal action against plants. Avoid contamination of any water supply or fishponds…do not allow drift onto plants you do not want killed.

McGregors-Weedout-General Weed Control Data Sheet states-Toxic to aquatic organisms. Avoid contact with eyes and skin. Avoid inhaltion of spray mist. If swallowed may cause burning sensation in throat and chest, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea….substance may bioaccumulate http://www.mcgregors.co.nz/sites/default/files/Safety%20Sheet%20WeedOut.pdf

The Park - 14th may small res

A powerful blessing followed by a call for pollen hotels

The Parks central point was fully activated with a powerful and heart warming karakia given by Rereata Makiha and Otene Reweti from Auckland Council’s Te Waka Angamua team, in an early morning blessing ceremony on the 3rd of May 2014. As we gathered on the western side of the hives and looked towards the first light the vibrations of Otene’s karakia energized the bees so they began to spiral high up into the air space above the hives. The intention of this blessing was to honor the historical and contemporary kaitiaiki and guardianship the local iwi have in this city and to ask them to bring this knowledge of custodianship to us all so we might also become effective protectors and caretakers of these bees.

These bees require respect within the hexagonal space in Victoria park but they also need support within the greater Waitemata. Winter is a tough time for all bees in the city. This project hopes to amplify this issue and inspire people to transform this reality by very simply planting a pollen hotel be it large or small, and to post a photo of it on the map. This will help visualise the difference this collective action makes. Leave an email contact when  you add a pollen hotel and we will contact you and let you know when you can come and get some of the honey you helped nurture.

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Non chemical weed control…what are my options?

We are testing two different ways of getting rid of competing grass and weeds as part of preparing the ground for the Pasture Paintings. One of these systems is hot water spraying. This system developed by Biothermal has been used successfully for weed control on the North Shore of Auckland for some years. It works and offers an earth friendly weed control solution that is not harmful to us or bees.

Very soon Biothermal they will have units available for sale here in New Zealand  that are capable of 45 minutes of electric free hot water spraying which will allow people to have tidy and chemical free gardens.

Keep an eye on our seven Pasture Paintings as they pop up around the perimeter of the Waitemata and make up your mind for yourself.


Biothermal – a chemical free commitment

Dennis Tindall from Biothermal Technologies Ltd used to work for a major multinational chemical manufacture selling and using sprays that harm us and bees. He admits he was one of the guys that used to get up in community meetings trying to bamboozle the antichemical activists with science insisting they were perfectly harmless. Slowly Dennis began to see things that made him feel uncomfortable. He has had cancer himself, which he considers was a result of the close proximity he had to chemicals in his work place over many years. But it was an incident about 20 years ago that really turned Dennis around for good. One day after chemically spraying out in South Auckland he got a phone call to say a young boy had almost died. Dennis insisted on meeting him. Seeing this young boy so ill, made Dennis promise the boy’s father he would never use chemical sprays again and that he would work for the rest of his life to find an alternative to this harmful practice. He kept his word. Watch our pasture paintings and see for yourself Dennis’ hard work proving we no longer need to be chemical dependent.


Mycorrhizal fungi- microorganisms to help plants grow

Microorganisms’ are many different types of fungi and bacteria that you want to live in your soil. They process the nutrients that are locked away in things like leaves, twigs and cow poo and turn them back into their mineral forms so that plants can eat them.  One microorganism called mycorrhizal fungi does so much more than that. This fungi attaches itself to plant roots so the plant looks like it has a root hair extension. With these longer roots the plant can collect so many more minerals to eat, and store lots of water. Mycorrhizal fungi also produces enzymes to help make the plant healthy. 90% of mycorrhizal fungi have been killed by chemicals so to get them back you need to inoculate for them. Fortunately this is pretty easy to do. We are re introducing this fungi along with Trichoderma back into our soil with Nutri-Life Network AMF supplied to us by Franko Solutions in Sliverdale at the same time we sow our seeds. These microorganisms will help build humus, increase the plants roots zone, boost phosphate and zinc availability, lift the levels of calcium in the plant, help the plant be more resilient, and increase the plants nitrogen fixing capacity.