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Keywords:

  • bee;
  • clothianidin;
  • environmental fate;
  • half-life;
  • imidacloprid;
  • non-target wildlife;
  • soil water;
  • systemic insecticide

Summary

  1. Neonicotinoids are now the most widely used insecticides in the world. They act systemically, travelling through plant tissues and protecting all parts of the crop, and are widely applied as seed dressings. As neurotoxins with high toxicity to most arthropods, they provide effective pest control and have numerous uses in arable farming and horticulture.
  2. However, the prophylactic use of broad-spectrum pesticides goes against the long-established principles of integrated pest management (IPM), leading to environmental concerns.
  3. It has recently emerged that neonicotinoids can persist and accumulate in soils. They are water soluble and prone to leaching into waterways. Being systemic, they are found in nectar and pollen of treated crops. Reported levels in soils, waterways, field margin plants and floral resources overlap substantially with concentrations that are sufficient to control pests in crops, and commonly exceed the LC50 (the concentration which kills 50% of individuals) for beneficial organisms. Concentrations in nectar and pollen in crops are sufficient to impact substantially on colony reproduction in bumblebees.
  4. Although vertebrates are less susceptible than arthropods, consumption of small numbers of dressed seeds offers a route to direct mortality in birds and mammals.
  5. Synthesis and applications. Major knowledge gaps remain, but current use of neonicotinoids is likely to be impacting on a broad range of non-target taxa including pollinators and soil and aquatic invertebrates and hence threatens a range of ecosystem services.