Pesticide use in conservation

Tractor spraying pesticides at corn fields © fotokostic

Buglife has a presumption against the use of herbicides and will aim to minimise its use of herbicides in the course of carrying out its nature conservation activities.

Buglife acknowledges that there are circumstances where herbicides have a role in agriculture, horticulture and forestry operations. Herbicides also have a small but important use in conservation habitat management. Buglife strongly believes that all sectors should be using herbicides in a way that reduces negative impacts on wildlife, thereby improving the health of the UK’s ecosystems and enhancing ecosystem services such as pollination, water and soil quality.

There is substantial evidence suggesting that the use of pesticides has a detrimental effect on the UK’s ecosystems and the wildlife they support.  Although pesticides are subject to approval by Government and their use is regulated, they are clearly designed to be toxic to their target species, whether this be insects, plants, fungi or other organisms.  Furthermore, non-target species are also potentially at risk, either during pesticide application, through seepage into the aquatic environment or through long-term persistence in soil. Pesticides can also be used inappropriately, spraying out natural vegetation growth which can sometimes be more valuable for biodiversity than the more artificial habitat being created.

Dingy Skipper (Erynnis tages) © Greg Hitchcock Dingy Skipper (Erynnis tages) © Greg Hitchcock

Buglife believes that herbicides should only be used where the following conditions are both met:

      1. There is significant economic benefit to society, welfare benefit to animals and/or environmental benefits.
      2. The control technique does not cause significant damage to the environment.

Buglife therefore seeks to ensure that all herbicides are subject to rigorous and independent authorisation processes and that all sectors work to reduce the overall use of herbicides.

Buglife banned the use of glyphosate-based substances in our conservation work in 2012 due to the public health concerns over glyphosate, and the potential impact of the co-formulant substances on invertebrate life.

Drake Mackerel Mayfly (Ephemera vulgata) © Raz Drake Mackerel Mayfly (Ephemera vulgata) © Raz