Solidago ridelliiIt is with great pleasure and pride that the team at St. Williams nursery and Ecology Centre officially announce that we are neonic free!

For those less versed in chemical applications and all the ‘buzz’ around the use of certain chemical groups that are linked to CCD (Colony Collapse Disorder) Neonics …short for, Neonicotinoids are a relatively new class of insecticides that share a common mode of action that affect the central nervous system of insects, resulting in paralysis and death. The active ingredients: imidacloprid, acetamiprid, clothianidin, dinotefuran, nithiazine, thiacloprid and thiamethoxam are all classed as Neonicotinoids.

Recent studies have linked this insecticide to numerous environmental issues, namely the loss of honey bees as well as native pollinators, and the collapse of insectivorous bird populations due to a reduction in food sources.  We decided to act, two years ago… our team participated in heated debates, amongst ourselves as well as invited representatives from the manufacturers and suppliers of the products we were using. After a thorough review of the evidence, our team decided to review all our pest management procedures , and decided to stop all further use of Neonicotinoids.

Since then, we have completely removed this class of chemical from our list of options in our Integrated Pest Management program (IPM). Insects and diseases present a major challenge to profitable and ecologically responsible greenhouse production. IPM is an important tool in the management of these pests. The primary goal of IPM is to optimize pest control both in an economically and ecologically sound way. IPM involves the integration of cultural, physical, biological, and chemical practices to grow crops with little or no use of chemical pesticides. Monitoring, sampling, and record keeping are used to determine when control options are needed to keep pests below an economically damaging threshold. Pest management, not eradication, is the goal of our IPM program and as we learn more about the pest that affect our native plant crops, we challenge ourselves to push our IPM program to the limits in order to allow nature to take care of itself.

monarchThe incorporation of biological control methods in our greenhouse is becoming our main choice of action.  Biological control is the use of living organisms to control crop pests. Biological control of insect pests can be achieved through release of biocontrol agents like predatory mites, pirate bugs, soil-dwelling mites, and parasitic insects. Implementing a biological control program in a greenhouse is extremely management intensive and requires more knowledge on the part of the grower than do traditional pest control programs. Our team is discovering new insect species in the greenhouse every day, both good and bad.  Proper species identification is very important before a control program using predators or parasites is initiated. Release rate, timing, placement, temperature, and pesticide use also influence the success or failure of biological control efforts. Rigorous monitoring is necessary for proper timing of biocontrol agent releases, as is a reliable supply of the natural enemies. We have seen some exciting results this season … and hope to continue to develop our knowledge on this front.

Our outdoor Cravo Greenhouse houses most our herbaceous container production, at any given time during the day, this production area is filled with birds including Hummingbirds, various butterflies and more exciting … thousands of Monarch larvae. The Monarch caterpillars literary devour all Milkweed plants within the Cravo greenhouse range and then begin their transformation to Pupal stage.  Slowly but surely we have the privilege watching the butterflies hatch and begin their journey south.

Be sure to ask if your plant supplier is still using Neonicotinoids!