The SafeLawns foundation and the Toxics Action Center are up in arms over a Worcester city proposal to spray more then a million gallons of the insecticide Imidacloprid over a million acres to combat an out of control Asian longhorn beetle infestation in the area. The problem, the groups say, is that Imidacloprid is linked to colony collapse disorder in bees and is toxic to aquatic life earthworms and birds, according to a recent study completed in the UK.
Imidacloprid is a synthetic form of nicotine. On September 16 the Pesticide Board Subcommittee of Massachusetts will rule on whether to go through with this soil drenching plan. Imidacloprid has been banned in France and Germany as a soil drenching agent and a recent study done in England recommends it be banned there as well.
“Certainly the Asian longhorn beetle is a devastating problem and no easy answers exist. Drenching your soil with this toxin, however, is most certainly not the solution” said Paul Tukey, founder of The SafeLawns Foundation. “It’s imperative that this Worcester proposal “" which calls for three times the EPA recommended amount of imidacloprid to be applied “" be declined. The impacts on bees, the soils and the watershed of that region could be devastating.”
The SafeLawns Foundation, based in Washington, D.C and the Toxics Action Center, based in Boston, plan to team with other environmental organizations over the next few days.
The recent British study that links imidacloprid to colony collapse disorder, said Tukey, creates an even greater sense of urgency. Colony Collapse Disorder, by some estimates, has killed nearly a third of the nation’s honeybee population since 2006.
“This is the most comprehensive review of the scientific evidence yet and it has revealed the disturbing amount of damage these poisons can cause” said Matt Shardlow, chief executive of Buglife, the non-profit organization that commissioned the British study.
A safer and cost-effective technique to combat the Asian longhorn beetle, said Tukey, involves injecting affected trees. That reduces the amount of toxin used and generally contains any poisons to within the tree. When applied as a soil drench, the material can seep into surface and groundwater, or be taken up directly by birds, pets and humans. A Massachusetts company known as ArborJet of Winchester pioneered the injection technique that is now considered to be the USDA standard treatment for several exotic invasive tree pests, including the Asian longhorn beetle.