Tuesday 4 May 2021

Pesticides in France for members of the public and in public spaces.


From January 1, 2019, only plant protection and other gardening products of natural origin have been available to home gardeners in France. This was originally to have been from Jan 2022 but was brought forward as part of the French move towards reducing the use of products that are harmful to both humans and the wider environment. This follows the banning in 2017 of the use of Glyphosate, (Roundup), and other synthetic pesticides in public spaces including public roads, parks and cemeteries. (The term Pesticides is used generically these days to cover all “cides”, herbicide, fungicide, insecticide etc. to avoid laborious repetition).  


The use of synthetic pesticides continues to be permitted for farmers and professionals registered to work in the gardening business.


Synthetic pesticides are “a substance that is formulated or manufactured by a chemical process or by a process that chemically changes a substance extracted from naturally occurring plant, animal, or mineral sources.” Synthetic pesticides are often referred to as conventional pesticides.


Of course natural products can be equally as harmful if used excessively or in concentrated form. For example salt, vinegar, detergents and even Jeyes fluid are often promoted as being natural but all can and will cause serious environmental harm.

Natural products that have been approved can be found on this PDF list.



Sunday 4 April 2021

Voles and holes in France


Gardeners and householders in France are forever complaining about the presence of voles in their gardens, either because of the holes they make or the harm they can cause to plants and vegetables. Any harm they may cause depends on the species, some preferring roots and others seeds, grains, leafy plants and even insects. 

Although there are eleven species of vole in France only a few are of concern to gardeners or farmers. As a general rule these are the Field vole, the Common vole and the Bank vole. The Water vole in its land based form, (known as rat taupier), can have a major impact but they are only present in some regions of France. 

Occasionally some vole species have a population explosion that reaches a peak and then equally as rapidly the populations collapse back to normal or less than normal for a year or more.

What needs to be considered, as always, is the greater good and voles along with wood mice provide the main food source for a large range of creatures and in some cases what amounts to the only food source.

I would think that birds of prey will immediately spring to mind for most people; owls, buzzards, kites and hawks. All will catch and eat voles to some extent and for some they will make up almost 100% of their diet. They are of particular importance for Little owls, Barn owls, Kestrels, Hen and Montagu’s Harriers, all of whom will either not produce eggs or will experience high chick mortality numbers if there aren’t sufficient numbers of voles available. 

Most of the snakes that are found in France regularly eat voles. 

On the mammal front they will be eaten by Foxes, Stoats, Weasels, Badgers, Polecats, Genets, Stone Marten, Pine Marten and European Mink. 

Although it may seem a bit callous, the more voles that are available for mammals and snakes to eat the less pressure there will be for them to eat other creatures that are either less able to produce large numbers of offspring or that are already suffering population declines due to other causes. 

Due to the harm being caused to other non target species the use of poisons, (rodenticides), in the outside environment was prohibited by law in France in 2012. Poisoning to other creatures was being caused either directly with them coming into direct contact with the products or indirectly by the consumption of creatures that had been poisoned.   

Farmers in France can apply to their Prefecture for derogations to enable them to continue with poisoning fields to protect their crops and sadly this has become normal. It’s also not unusual to see dead small birds around animal sheds where poison grain is being used but that’s a different issue. 

These vicious cycles reduce the number of predators for the voles and other rodents and increases the need for poisoning, exactly the opposite of that which is required.



Saturday 13 February 2021

Protected Reptiles and Amphibians in France

The new list of protected reptiles and amphibians in France has for the first time included the four species of Viper, (Vipéridés).

Vipera aspis - Vipère aspic - Asp Viper
Vipera berus - Vipère péliade - Common Adder
Vipera seoanei - Vipère de Seoane - Seoane's viper.
Vipera ursinii - Vipère d'Orsini - Orsini's viper

For far too long these species have been persecuted and killed. This combined with the destruction of their natural habitat has resulted in a serious decline in numbers.

Needless to say this will not in itself prevent the continued harming of these valuable species but will send a signal to those with ears to hear and to those in authority