Bee Friendly Insecticide, Made From Olive Oil, Creates A Buzz Around Europe

A UK-Italian business is cornering the EU market with an innovative crop protection technology based on a bee-friendly insecticide.

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Headquartered in Cambridge, AlphaBio Control developed the technology from discoveries made at the convergence of natural chemistry and microbiology.

Its lead product, FLiPPER®, was launched in 2017 by original founders Iain Fleming and Alfeo Vecchi and has just won a Silver Award for Environmental Best Practice at The Green Organisation’s Green Apple Awards 2018. The ceremony at the Houses of Parliament was hosted by Liz Kendall MP.

FLIPPER is a natural, environment and bee-friendly organic insecticide derived from the natural by-product of extra virgin olive oil.

It is being used around Europe to control aphids, whitefly, thrips, mites, psylla, leaf hoppers and scale with negligible impact on honey bees, bumble bees, pollinators, other beneficial insects – or humans.

It is currently available to the UK wholesale market via the horticultural distributor Fargro Ltd and is also widely used in France, Italy, Greece, Spain and the Netherlands.

In the UK it currently has label approval for use on strawberries, tomatoes and cucumbers under protection and off label approval for peppers, chillies and aubergines.

Further, more extensive and conventional label approvals are being processed and should be available from next year.

Iain Fleming says: “The launch of FLiPPER® last year marked the culmination of several years of research and development followed by several more years acquiring the necessary regulatory approvals. It has been a long process.

“To get this recognition from The Green Organisation for our work in finding solutions for safer agricultural products without further damaging the natural environment is superb.”

Fleming said the product left no detectable residue, could be used at any point in the growing season, required zero harvest intervals, had a raw material that is food grade and is certified organic.

This year in Italy the product will be applied on an area of 8,750 hectares – mostly on fresh tomatoes and wine grapes to control aphids and leafhoppers respectively.

In Spain the area of use is 3,000 hectares (various fresh fruits and vegetables to control whitefly and thrips); in France 1,000 hectares (principally strawberries to control mites; in the Netherlands ,8250 hectares (both protected and field crop fruits and vegetables to control an number of pests ) and in the UK it is about 750 hectares (tomatoes and strawberries to control whitefly and aphids).

AlphaBio is in the process of procuring the necessary formal consents with the intention that the product should be permitted for use on all fruit and vegetable crops and has a realistic expectation that within three years the product will be being used on 125,000 hectares per annum.

More than 175 fully replicated field trials have been conducted in multiple climatic zones to test FLiPPER®’s efficacy. Tests covered different methods of application and were trialled on queens, drones and worker bees, with no noted mortalities. Because of its profile, it is exempt from EU residue testing requirements.

Registered in the UK and headquartered in Cambridge, AlphaBio Control’s commercial offices are in Reggio Emilia, Italy.

Research director, Alfeo Vecchi, says: “We have created a new process using only heat and pressure that allows us to extract the carboxylic acids of the insecticide from the by-product of extra virgin olive oil.

“We believe this presents an important development in the on-going challenge of finding solutions for safer agricultural products without further damaging the natural environment.”

Initial development costs were met from private funding but additional capital required to compile a dossier for regulatory approval came from an
overseas industry investor.

Sales are steadily increasing and the company is recruiting extra staff for the UK, Italy and recently opened Netherlands office. It believes that within the next 18 to 24 months the business will become self-funding.

Across the course of the FLIPPER project management say they have developed a broad base of knowledge and understanding of the use of natural chemicals in plant protection.

This will now be leveraged to bring other solutions forward for growers, not only in pest control but also in the area of plant diseases.

Bee Friendly Insecticides

Neonicotinoid-Contaminated Pollinator Strips Adjacent to Cropland Reduces Honey Bee Nutritional Status

CATCH THE BUZZ    By: Christina L. Mogren & Jonathan G. Lundgren     July 28, 2016

Worldwide pollinator declines are attributed to a number of factors, including pesticide exposures. Neonicotinoid insecticides specifically have been detected in surface waters, non-target vegetation, and bee products, but the risks posed by environmental exposures are still not well understood. Pollinator strips were tested for clothianidin contamination in plant tissues, and the risks to honey bees assessed. An enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) quantified clothianidin in leaf, nectar, honey, and bee bread at organic and seed-treated farms. Total glycogen, lipids, and protein from honey bee workers were quantified. The proportion of plants testing positive for clothianidin were the same between treatments. Leaf tissue and honey had similar concentrations of clothianidin between organic and seed-treated farms. Honey (mean±SE: 6.61 ± 0.88 ppb clothianidin per hive) had seven times greater concentrations than nectar collected by bees (0.94 ± 0.09 ppb). Bee bread collected from organic sites (25.8 ± 3.0 ppb) had significantly less clothianidin than those at seed treated locations (41.6 ± 2.9 ppb). Increasing concentrations of clothianidin in bee bread were correlated with decreased glycogen, lipid, and protein in workers. This study shows that small, isolated areas set aside for conservation do not provide spatial or temporal relief from neonicotinoid exposures in agricultural regions where their use is largely prophylactic.

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Herbicides, Not Insecticides, Biggest Threat to Bees

AGFAX   By Bonnie Coblentz    December 17, 2015 

People who care about honeybees know that insecticides and pollinators are usually a bad mix, but it turns out that herbicides used to control weeds can spell even bigger trouble for bees.

Jeff Harris, bee specialist with the MSU Extension Service and Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station researcher, said herbicides destroy bee food sources.

“When farmers burn down weeds before spring planting, or people spray for goldenrod, asters and spring flowers, or when power companies spray their rights-of-way, they’re killing a lot of potential food sources for bees and wild pollinators,” he said.

Harris said the direct effect of these chemicals on bees is so much less of an issue than their loss of food supply.

“Disappearing food is on the mind of beekeepers in the state,” he said. “That is even more important to them than losses of bees to insecticides.”

Johnny Thompson, vice president of the Mississippi Beekeeping Association, is a cattle and poultry farmer in Neshoba County who has been in the bee business for the last 10 years.

“Before we got back into bees, I sprayed pastures by the barrel to kill weeds. As a cattle farmer, weeds are a nuisance,” Thompson said. “I’m trying to grow grass for the cows to eat and not weeds, but as a beekeeper, those weeds are not weeds. That’s forage for the bees.”

Today, Thompson said he uses the bush hog more than he sprays herbicides to keep the food supply for bees intact on his land.

“If you kill everything the bee has for food, you may as well go in and spray the hive directly. The bees are going to die,” he said. “All the emphasis is being put on insecticide, but the greater risk to bees are the herbicides.”

He has made management changes for the sake of his bees’ food supply, but he recognizes the tension between current agricultural management practices and pollinators’ best interests.

“When you travel through the Delta or the prairie part of the state in February, the row crop land is purple with henbit blooming. By the end of March, it’s all gone because farmers burned it down with chemicals to try to kill everything in the field before they plant,” he said.

“They burn it down early because weeds in March or early April are a reservoir for insect pests to the crops that will soon be planted,” Thompson said.

Crops in the field, especially soybeans, are great sources of bee forage, and farmers and beekeepers can coordinate to protect both of their interests. 

“We moved bees to the Delta this summer to make soybean honey,” Thompson said. “We’re working with the growers to try to put the bees in areas that are fairly protected and won’t get directly sprayed.”

But farmland is not the only place bees find food. Yards, roadsides, golf courses and power line rights-of-way are other places bees forage when plants are allowed to bloom naturally.

“We need to stop looking at them as weeds and instead look at these plants as forage,” Thompson said. “I can manage around the insecticides, but if herbicide use means there’s nothing for a bee to eat, there’s no reason to put a hive in an area.”