I’m getting rid of Imidacloprid – Avoiding the Worst Neonicotinoid Insecticides

I’m often asked which products are OK and which should be avoided.  Hence the mnemonic in the title to help you remember I’m getting rid of Imidacloprid.  Say it three times out loud, and when you read the labels at the garden store you will remember:  I’m getting rid of Imidacloprid.

When it comes to insecticides, first ask yourself , do you really need them?  Rather than automatically reaching for a spray bottle, first take a close look at your foe.  Do you know what it is, its life cycle?  What will happen if you do nothing?  Are there any natural predators around?  Open your eyes to the fascinating world of insects and their daily dramas before killing them all.

Attentive gardeners are always on the lookout for the pests they have come to know.  I expect cabbage caterpillars to appear as soon as I see the pretty white butterflies flitting about.  So I watch the plants for any sign of the worms and many times I notice predatory wasps patrolling with me.  I don’t get all of the worms by hand picking; there are always some left for the wasps.  Between us, we don’t need anything else to keep the worms off the broccoli.  Hand picking works for many garden pests.

Healthy plants are more resistant to insect pest.  Good growing conditions, water and organic fertilizer are your first choices to solve problems.  A good resource when you have problem is NCAP’s solution tool box.  Occasionally you may be driven to need something more.  So lets look at the good, the bad, and the ugly, when it comes to garden chemicals.

The Good: Soaps and Oils

GoodThe least toxic chemicals are often soap or fat/oil based emulsions that disrupt the pest with little environmental impact.  Safer Brand and EcoSmart products are generally a good choice for chemical products that have low toxicity and are usually derived from organic ingredients.  The major pesticide brands like Ortho and Bayer also have lines of less toxic chemicals but I would suggest patronizing brands that generally avoid the worst chemicals in all of their products.  Read the labels!

The Bad: Neonicotinoid Pesticides

There are plenty of bad chemicals.  I’m mostly concerned about the insidious,  highly toxic neonicotinoid insecticides because they are long-lasting in the environment and sub-lethal amounts of toxin will accumulate and cause harm in bees and other beneficial insects.  The list of products that contain neonicotinoid insecticides is a long one.  Common on this list are foliar sprays for direct control of insect pests. Bad
Ortho brand sprays usually contain acetamiprid, a neonicotinoid that is less toxic and more quickly degrades than imidacloprid. Bayer foliar sprays contain imidacloprid.  The extended length of time the chemicals continue to kill insects can clue you in on how much active ingredient is being spread about and their relative environmental impact.  The Bayer Complete Insect Killer has a lot of active ingredient and really belongs with the ugly product below.

The Ugly: Mindless-Use, Soil-Contaminating, Neonicotinoid Pesticides

These are the real problems.  Insecticides that are applied in the soil need to have more active ingredient in order that enough is taken up by the plant to be effective.  This means that much more is still left in the soil where it can contaminate non-target plants for many years and eventually move into the ground water.


Tree and shrub product use large amounts of chemical. Many flowering shrubs are prime bee forage, make an attractive and deadly combination. The soil around treated trees will grow toxic flowers for years.  The “all-in-one” and “protect & feed” products contain fertilizer as well as imidacloprid.  This leads to mindless needless insecticide use and soil contamination.  The Bayer All-in-One Rose and Flower Care also contains clothianidin, another deadly neonicotinoid, in addition to imidacloprid.  Please do not use these chemicals, for the sake of the bees and the entire invertebrate eco-system.

Remember, I’m getting rid of imidacloprid!


  1. At the big box lumber store today, a walk through the garden center makes clear that the consumer/producer mentality toward insects is still “kill all of them.” The more I read about neonicotinoids the more concerned I get. I did not know that imidacloprid is the biggest selling insecticide in the world. An insecticide that travels systemically through vascular plants, breaks down very slowly unless exposed to sunlight, will accumulate in soil and can move with water through soil – what could possibly go wrong? I’m not sure which is worse, it’s use in agriculture or millions of homeowners spraying the stuff on their lawns, trees and rosebushes.

    You’re right many bugs can be hand-picked. I spray squash plants with a clove/garlic oil mix. It doesn’t kill the squash bugs but drives them to the top of the plant where they can be picked off.

    1. Hi Mike, The trend to having this stuff in consumer products is relatively new. Bayer has been in the market since ~2000, but their sales are not as great as Ortho. The patent ran on imidacloprid a few years ago, and now Ortho is getting heavy into the act. Their first entry was in 2008, but then in the last couple of years have been pushing several more imidacloprid products. This is the missing piece why urban beekeepers can no longer keep bees. Future post on this in the works…

  2. my cat died after 5 minutes in the soya field out back… this pesticide issue needs be handled and my bee keeper neighbour lost most of his bees… but to take out a perfectly cat is unconscionable…however can these people sleep at night?

  3. Hello,
    I am writing a blog and our topic is the importance of bees. I have a section related to the chemicals used at home. May I please use the second image with a link to your blog on my unpublished blog so other can learn more about what you do. Your image is straight to the point and clear. I look forward to learning more. Thank you!

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