Neonicotinoids pose undocumented threats to food webs

Image of corn field with "neonicotinoids" warning sign.

(PNAS) “One of the main lessons that emerged from Silent Spring is that we overuse pesticides at our own peril because human and natural environments are unquestionably linked. It is time to revisit these lessons given current use patterns of neonicotinoid insecticides… We contend that the efficient and well-documented transmission of neonicotinoids through tripartite food chains – plant to pest to natural enemy – combined with the diversity of nontarget herbivores on treated plants threatens entire food webs by disrupting arthropod communities and interactions.”

EPA asked to approve dinotefuran on apples, peaches, nectarines

Image of apple trees.

(Center for Biological Diversity) The Environmental Protection Agency is considering granting “emergency” approval of a neonicotinoid pesticide for use on more than 57,000 acres of fruit trees, including apples, peaches and nectarines, in Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania. If granted, this would mark the tenth straight year that emergency exemptions of dinotefuran have been granted in Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania to target the brown marmorated stink bug on pome and stone fruit trees, which are highly attractive to bees.

Pesticides disrupt honey bee nursing behavior and larval development

Image of honey bee cells with larvae.

(ScienceDaily/Goethe University Frankfurt) A newly developed video technique has allowed scientists to record the complete development of a honey bee in its hive. Researchers discovered that neonicotinoids caused nurse bees to feed the larvae less often. Larval development also took up to 10 hours longer; a longer development period in the hive can foster infestation by parasites.

What motivates sales of pollinator-friendly plants?

Image of urban garden.

(EurekAlert/American Society for Horticultural Science) An analysis out of the University of Georgia details the relationship between consumer awareness and the attentiveness and care given to pollinator-friendly plant purchases. The results show that information from the federal government, nursery/greenhouse industry associations, and environmental activist groups has the same impact on self-reported future pollinator-friendly plant purchasing as the no-information group. Only information from universities and major media outlets reportedly drives changes in consumer behavior.

Pesticide seed coatings are widespread but underreported

Image of pesticide-coated seeds

(Penn State) Pesticide-coated seeds – including neonicotinoids – are increasingly used in the major field crops but are underreported, in part, because farmers often do not know what pesticides are on their seeds, according to an international team of researchers. “One of the most important findings of this study is that farmers know less about pesticides applied to their seeds than pesticides applied in other ways.”

Minnesota cities could get power to ban pesticides as bee populations fall

Image of rusty patched bumble bee on Joe Pye weed.

(The Star Tribune) Lawmakers may give cities throughout Minnesota the authority to ban some widely used pesticides – including neonicotinoids – as native bumble bee and pollinator populations continue to collapse. The recently-introduced measure would grant each city the choice to issue a blanket ban on a group of pesticides that the Minnesota Department of Agriculture has labeled as lethal to pollinators.

EPA proposing to reapprove use of neonics

Image of tractor in field.

(Center for Biological Diversity) Rather than banning the pesticides, the EPA is proposing a number of modest measures to limit their harm, including reductions in amounts applied to crops and restrictions on when they can be applied to blooming crops. A major scientific review published in 2019 found that a “serious reduction in pesticide usage” is key to preventing the extinction of up to 41 percent of the world’s insects within the “next few” decades. Thousands of scientific studies implicate neonics as key contributors to declining pollinator populations. The EPA’s own scientists have found that neonics pose far-reaching risks to bees, birds and aquatic invertebrates.