What impact will the ban on neonicotinoids have on green space maintenance?

13 Feb 2020

After debating for 27 months, the French Parliament voted the prohibition of neonicotinoid insecticides, aka “bee killers”. Good news for the environment but a difficult decision for the Government and Public Authorities which now have to find more ecological alternatives for green space maintenance. Read our report.


Neonicotinoids are not just life-threatening for bees – but for humans too!

Neonicotinoid insecticides were invented and marketed in the mid-1990s. They act on the cerebral receivers of destructive insects. The problem is that some pollinating insects and mammals also have these cerebral receivers! Neonicotinoids are harmful for the environment and in particular contribute to the disappearance of bees. To keep pollinators in good health the French Ministry for Agriculture published a list of 200 plants that attract bees. But bees are not the only species threatened… A recent study showed that besides killing bees, neonicotinoids have an impact on humans. Chronic exposure to the substances contained in neonicotinoids has serious neurological effects and influences human brain development. In particular neonicotinoids increase the risk of autism, memory disorders and congenital heart and brain malformations at birth (1).

The ban on neonicotinoids. What the law envisages.

Confronted with these threats, French law n°2016-1087 aims to protect biodiversity, nature and landscapes (2) by gradually replacing products containing neonicotinoids by 1st September 2018 and then fully eliminating them. Their use will be prohibited on all crop lands and green spaces. However, exemptions can be granted until 1st July 2020 if no alternative exists. These exceptions will be listed in a joint decree from the French Agricultural, Environmental and Health Ministries.

What alternatives to neonicotinoids exist for green space maintenance?

As of now, there are 5 main families of alternatives. Biocontrol products authorized (3) for the chemical-free maintenance of green spaces.

  • Chemical mediators (neurotransmitters). The use of pheromones creating sexual confusion in destructive insects to limit reproduction.
  • The use of predatory micro-organisms and bacteria which fight destructive insects like Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt).
  • The use of macro-organisms, animals and parasites that prey on insects. For example, the titmouse can be used to fight processionary caterpillars, and trichogramma (minute polyphagous wasps) to kill box tree moths.
  • The use of more ecological insecticides containing natural substances like essential oils or plant extracts.
  • The use of preventive methods – or disease prevention – which group techniques to reduce the number of destructive insects. Other methods include nets to protect plants, more resistant plants and disinfecting shear blades to prevent cross-contamination during green space maintenance.


It is essential to adopt new green space maintenance practices to compensate for neonicotinoid prohibition. Combining alternative methods with more natural products makes it possible to fight destructive insects effectively and gradually clean neonicotinoids out of our landscapes… and our brains!

We would like to thank Yannick Cariou, from Fredonra, for his expert testimony on the subject.

(1) Environmental Health Perspectives, Study by Melissa P. Jerry, George Washington University, USA
(2) Legifrance, French Law n°2016-1087 on promoting biodiversity in nature and landscapes, Article 125
(3) The Ministry for Agriculture and Food, List of phytopharmacological biocontrol products


© Credit photo : Fotolia / Encierro

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