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Concept: Imidacloprid


The causes of bee declines remain hotly debated, particularly the contribution of neonicotinoid insecticides. In 2013 the UK’s Food & Environment Research Agency made public a study of the impacts of exposure of bumblebee colonies to neonicotinoids. The study concluded that there was no clear relationship between colony performance and pesticide exposure, and the study was subsequently cited by the UK government in a policy paper in support of their vote against a proposed moratorium on some uses of neonicotinoids. Here I present a simple re-analysis of this data set. It demonstrates that these data in fact do show a negative relationship between both colony growth and queen production and the levels of neonicotinoids in the food stores collected by the bees. Indeed, this is the first study describing substantial negative impacts of neonicotinoids on colony performance of any bee species with free-flying bees in a field realistic situation where pesticide exposure is provided only as part of normal farming practices. It strongly suggests that wild bumblebee colonies in farmland can be expected to be adversely affected by exposure to neonicotinoids.

Concepts: Insect, Honey bee, Pollinator decline, Bee, Bumblebee, Insecticide, Neonicotinoid, Imidacloprid


An evaluation was made of the effects of seven neurotoxic insecticides (esfenvalerate, indoxacarb, clothianidin, thiacloprid, azinphosmethyl, phosmet and imidacloprid), one insect growth regulator (novaluron) and two fungicides (myclobutanin and mancozeb), with water as the control, on the horizontal mobility of plum curculios exposed to dried pesticide residues. Mobility was recorded over a 2 h period using ethological tracking software. Mortality was recorded immediately after horizontal mobility experiments and 24 h later.

Concepts: Sulfur, Pesticide, Insecticide, Insecticides, Neonicotinoid, Imidacloprid, Cinnamaldehyde, Phosmet


Neonicotinoids are widely used insecticides, but their use is subject of debate because of their detrimental effects on pollinators. Little is known about the effect of neonicotinoids on other beneficial insects such as parasitoid wasps, which serve as natural enemies and are crucial for ecosystem functioning. Here we show that sublethal doses of the neonicotinoid imidacloprid impair sexual communication and host finding in the parasitoid wasp Nasonia vitripennis. Depending on the dose, treated females were less responsive to the male sex pheromone or unable to use it as a cue at all. Courtship behaviour of treated couples was also impeded resulting in a reduction of mating rates by up to 80%. Moreover, treated females were no longer able to locate hosts by using olfactory cues. Olfaction is crucial for the reproductive success of parasitoid wasps. Hence, sublethal doses of neonicotinoids might compromise the function of parasitoid wasps as natural enemies with potentially dire consequences for ecosystem services.

Concepts: Male, Insect, Sex, Ant, Insecticide, Biological pest control, Neonicotinoid, Imidacloprid


We conducted a laboratory study to determine the impact of ground-applied termiticides on the above-ground foraging behavior of Coptotermes formosanus. Two concentrations (1 and 10 ppm) each of three termiticides, viz. fipronil, imidacloprid and chlorantraniliprole, were tested. After one month post-treatment (fipronil 10 ppm was run for 12 days only and all other treatments were run for one month), fipronil had the lowest percentage of survival (3%-4%) at both concentrations. Termite survival ranged from 31% to 40% in the case of imidacloprid treatments and 10 ppm chlorantraniliprole. However, 1 ppm chlorantraniliprole did not cause significant mortality compared to the controls. Foraging on the bottom substrate was evident in all replicates for all chemicals initially. However, a portion of the foraging population avoided the ground treatment toxicants after several days of bottom foraging. Only the slower-acting non-repellents created this repellent barrier, causing avoidance behavior that was most likely due to dead termites and fungus buildup on the treated bottom substrate. Fipronil appeared more toxic and faster acting at the concentrations tested, thus limiting this repellent effect. Suggestions by the pest control industry in Louisiana that some non-repellents can create a repellent barrier stranding live termites above ground are supported by this laboratory study.

Concepts: Cellulose, Cockroach, Imidacloprid, Termite, Termites, Invasive animal species, Formosan subterranean termite, Fipronil


Chronic exposure to neonicotinoid insecticides has been linked to reduced survival of pollinating insects at both the individual and colony level, but so far only experimentally. Analyses of large-scale datasets to investigate the real-world links between the use of neonicotinoids and pollinator mortality are lacking. Moreover, the impacts of neonicotinoid seed coatings in reducing subsequent applications of foliar insecticide sprays and increasing crop yield are not known, despite the supposed benefits of this practice driving widespread use. Here, we combine large-scale pesticide usage and yield observations from oilseed rape with those detailing honey bee colony losses over an 11 year period, and reveal a correlation between honey bee colony losses and national-scale imidacloprid (a neonicotinoid) usage patterns across England and Wales. We also provide the first evidence that farmers who use neonicotinoid seed coatings reduce the number of subsequent applications of foliar insecticide sprays and may derive an economic return. Our results inform the societal discussion on the pollinator costs and farming benefits of prophylactic neonicotinoid usage on a mass flowering crop.

Concepts: Insect, Beekeeping, Pollination, Flower, Pollinator decline, Insecticide, Neonicotinoid, Imidacloprid


Growing evidence for declines in bee populations has caused great concern because of the valuable ecosystem services they provide. Neonicotinoid insecticides have been implicated in these declines because they occur at trace levels in the nectar and pollen of crop plants. We exposed colonies of the bumble bee Bombus terrestris in the laboratory to field-realistic levels of the neonicotinoid imidacloprid, then allowed them to develop naturally under field conditions. Treated colonies had a significantly reduced growth rate and suffered an 85% reduction in production of new queens compared with control colonies. Given the scale of use of neonicotinoids, we suggest that they may be having a considerable negative impact on wild bumble bee populations across the developed world.

Concepts: Honey bee, Pollination, Pollinator decline, Bee, Bumblebee, Insecticide, Neonicotinoid, Imidacloprid


Wild bee declines have been ascribed in part to neonicotinoid insecticides. While short-term laboratory studies on commercially bred species (principally honeybees and bumblebees) have identified sub-lethal effects, there is no strong evidence linking these insecticides to losses of the majority of wild bee species. We relate 18 years of UK national wild bee distribution data for 62 species to amounts of neonicotinoid use in oilseed rape. Using a multi-species dynamic Bayesian occupancy analysis, we find evidence of increased population extinction rates in response to neonicotinoid seed treatment use on oilseed rape. Species foraging on oilseed rape benefit from the cover of this crop, but were on average three times more negatively affected by exposure to neonicotinoids than non-crop foragers. Our results suggest that sub-lethal effects of neonicotinoids could scale up to cause losses of bee biodiversity. Restrictions on neonicotinoid use may reduce population declines.

Concepts: Conservation biology, Evolution, Insect, Honey bee, Bee, Bumblebee, Apidae, Imidacloprid


Recent studies have shown that neonicotinoid insecticides have adverse effects on non-target invertebrate species. Invertebrates constitute a substantial part of the diet of many bird species during the breeding season and are indispensable for raising offspring. We investigated the hypothesis that the most widely used neonicotinoid insecticide, imidacloprid, has a negative impact on insectivorous bird populations. Here we show that, in the Netherlands, local population trends were significantly more negative in areas with higher surface-water concentrations of imidacloprid. At imidacloprid concentrations of more than 20 nanograms per litre, bird populations tended to decline by 3.5 per cent on average annually. Additional analyses revealed that this spatial pattern of decline appeared only after the introduction of imidacloprid to the Netherlands, in the mid-1990s. We further show that the recent negative relationship remains after correcting for spatial differences in land-use changes that are known to affect bird populations in farmland. Our results suggest that the impact of neonicotinoids on the natural environment is even more substantial than has recently been reported and is reminiscent of the effects of persistent insecticides in the past. Future legislation should take into account the potential cascading effects of neonicotinoids on ecosystems.

Concepts: Biology, Insect, Bird, Invertebrate, Insecticide, Pesticide toxicity to bees, Neonicotinoid, Imidacloprid


Neonicotinoid insecticides are generally efficacious against many turfgrass pests, including several important phloem-feeding insects. However, inconsistencies in control of western chinch bugs, Blissus occiduus, have been documented in field efficacy studies. This research investigated the efficacy of three neonicotinoid insecticides (clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam) against B. occiduus in buffalograss under field conditions and detected statistically significant differences in B. occiduus numbers among treatments. A subsequent study documented the relative quantity and degradation rate of these insecticides in buffalograss systemic leaf tissues, using HPLC.

Concepts: Statistical significance, Effectiveness, Efficacy, Insecticide, Insecticides, Neonicotinoid, Imidacloprid, Clothianidin


Neonicotinoid pesticides were first introduced in the mid-1990s, and since then, their use has grown rapidly. They are now the most widely used class of insecticides in the world, with the majority of applications coming from seed dressings. Neonicotinoids are water-soluble, and so can be taken up by a developing plant and can be found inside vascular tissues and foliage, providing protection against herbivorous insects. However, only approximately 5% of the neonicotinoid active ingredient is taken up by crop plants and most instead disperses into the wider environment. Since the mid-2000s, several studies raised concerns that neonicotinoids may be having a negative effect on non-target organisms, in particular on honeybees and bumblebees. In response to these studies, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) was commissioned to produce risk assessments for the use of clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam and their impact on bees. These risk assessments concluded that the use of these compounds on certain flowering crops poses a high risk to bees. On the basis of these findings, the European Union adopted a partial ban on these substances in May 2013. The purpose of the present paper is to collate and summarise scientific evidence published since 2013 that investigates the impact of neonicotinoids on non-target organisms. Whilst much of the recent work has focused on the impact of neonicotinoids on bees, a growing body of evidence demonstrates that persistent, low levels of neonicotinoids can have negative impacts on a wide range of free-living organisms.

Concepts: European Union, Plant, Honey bee, Insecticide, Neonicotinoid, Imidacloprid, European Food Safety Authority, Clothianidin