Many people are becoming aware that there is a scheme to inject coconut trees with neonicotinoid chemicals, in an attempt to control the outbreak of the ‘cocolisap’ pest. ‘Neonics’ are a relatively new group of pesticide chemicals that work by attacking the nerve connections in animals – for example insects, but also other animals. Because neonic chemicals can be in solution in a plant’s sap they are systemic pesticides that will affect any animal that drinks the sap or nectar, or eats the plant.
The coconut scale insect or ‘cocolisap’ sucks the coconut sap so the theory is that if a coconut tree is injected with neonic chemicals the cocolisap will be targeted. Anything else that drinks the sap or nectar will also be targeted, so I hope the advocates of this scheme will stop and think about the other targets too…
Bees drink coconut nectar and so these beneficial pollinating insects will be targeted.
Birds and other animals who eat insects or coconuts will be targeted.
Humans who consume coconut products (or the above animals) will be indirectly targeted.
If and when neonics leach into the water table they can produce a ‘background pollution’ the effects of which are difficult to predict, but impossible to avoid.
The trouble is neonic chemicals are indiscriminate. Most neonicotinoids show much lower toxicity in birds and mammals than insects, but some breakdown products are toxic (1). In the future it may be that neonic pesticides will be considered the DDT (5) of our time, but until then they are increasingly being added into our environment. The ecological damage done and the knock-on effects have yet to be properly understood and documented – meanwhile there are powerful commercial companies pushing the use of neonics and there is money to be made by some people.
There is much hope that other more sustainable and ‘clever’ methods are available to control the cocolisap, and it is so good to see that many people are recognising this in the Philippines. (2) (3) (4) The native wasp which is a natural predator of the cocolisap pest seems to be a far better control method, and there are other management techniques available without the need for neonics.
Amongst this debate the issue of ‘pollination’ and the impact on honeybees is also becoming better recognised. Many people recognise that if you introduce neonics into the environment then you can expect to see the signs of [p2p type=”slug” value=”european-honeybees-2″]’colony collapse disorder’[/p2p] or CCD in hived bees. (It just so happens that southern Luzon has a major proportion of the country’s limited number of commercial European honeybees.) Perhaps unseen to many people, there will also be CCD in native honeybees – honey hunters will notice that it becomes even more difficult to find wild honeybee colonies. The existing stress on the native bee population would be greatly accelerated by the use of neonics.
If neonics are used, because there will be far fewer pollinating insects, it is logical to expect that there will be an increasing negative impact on the yields of many crops. Among these crops are [p2p type=”slug” value=”coconut-yields”]coconuts[/p2p] themselves which are quite dependant on pollinators for good yields.
2) Scientists warn vs use of pesticides on coco pest
3) Scientists identify parasites that will end cocolisap outbreak
4) BAN USE OF NEONICOTINOIDS AGAINST COCOLISAP! SAVE THE PHILIPPINE COCONUT INDUSTRY AND THE WHOLE PHILIPPINE ECONOMY
5) DDT insecticide