The Xerces Society has just released the report, Are Neonicotinoids Killing Bees? A Review of Research into the Effects of Neonicotinoid Insecticides on Bees, with Recommendations for Action.

According to a report from Penn State,  The neonicotinoids are a relatively new class of insecticides that impact the central nervous system of insects. They act either as contact insecticides or applied to plants, they are translocated throughout the plant tissue, making all parts of the plant toxic to pests that feed on the plants.

Their use has increased dramatically over the past few years and they are now the most widely used group of insecticides in the US. Their uses include: seed treatments for corn, cotton, canola and sunflowers; foliar sprays of fruit, nut and coffee crops; granular, and liquid drench applications in turf, ornamentals, fruit crops and in forests.

Potato plants in blossom.  Watch out, bees!  A report by the National Potato Council states that it is used on more than half the potato crops in this country and that the pests they are trying to kill are starting to develop resistance already.

Neonicotinoid (so named because it is similar to nicotine) hit the market in the mid 1990s and were popular because they are absorbed into the treated plant and protect it from insects who suck its sap of chew on it.

They have been promoted as being safer for wildlife because they were less toxic to birds and mammals than previous classes of insecticides.  Neonicotinoids are sold at garden centers and agricultural supply stores, and millions of acres of farmlands, gardens and city yards have been treated.

That’s too bad for pollinating insects who are poisoned by the neonicotinoid present in nectar and pollen of treated plants.  That includes bees, butterflies, beetles and flies.  And Unfortunately the bees, butterflies and other pollinators don’t seem to be bouncing back as well as the Potato Beetle.

Some of the major findings of the Xeerces report include:

–  Several of these insecticides are highly toxic to honey bees and bumblebees.
–  Products approved for homeowners to use in gardens, lawns, and on ornamental trees have manufacturer-recommended application rates up to 120 times higher than rates approved for agricultural crops.

–  Many neonicotinoid pesticides that are sold to homeowners for use on lawns and gardens do not have any mention of the risks of these products to bees, and the label guidance for products used in agriculture is not always clear or consistent.

–  Neonicotinoid residues are found in pollen and nectar consumed by pollinators such as bees and butterflies. The residues can reach lethal concentrations in some situations.

–  Neonicotinoids can persist in soil for months or years after a single application. Measurable amounts of residues were found in woody plants up to six years after application.

–  Untreated plants may absorb chemical residues left over in the soil from the previous year.

–  There is no direct link demonstrated between neonicotinoids and the honey bee syndrome known as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). However, recent research suggests that neonicotinoids may make honey bees more susceptible to parasites and pathogens, including the intestinal parasite Nosema, which has been implicated as one causative factor in CCD.

If you want to avoid contaminating the world with neonicotinoids, here are some of the brand names it is sold under:

Actara, Platinum, Helix, Cruiser, Adage, Meridian, Centric, Flagship, Poncho, Titan, Clutch, Belay, Arena, Confidor, Merit, Admire, Ledgend, Pravado, Encore, Goucho, Premise, Assail, Intruder, Adjust and Calypso (This list was generated by The Senior Extension Associate at Penn State)

2 replies

  1. Neonicotinoids kill insects, not just bees. Birds need insects. They are a rich protein source, ideal food for their babies. The paradox of gardeners buying bird seed and depriving birds of their insect food at the same time puzzles me.

  2. Yes. The supports for modern life are so complex that people often don’t seem to understand the very direct actions their choices can make on the world around them.
    That’s why it’s up to us, Pollinator, to help get the word out. Thanks so much for your very perceptive comment!

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