A relatively new class of insecticide called neonicotinoids has been linked to pollinator decline worldwide. Numerous studies demonstrate that neonicotinoids pose a threat to bee populations in particular. These insecticides appear in products sold to homewoners for use in lawns and gardens, as well as larger agricultural productions. Neonicotinoids are absorbed into plant tissue and pollen, and are later ingested by pollinators. Once infected, honeybees have been shown to struggle with simple navigation and experience reduced growth rates.
Scientists recognize that other factors such as disease and lack of flowers also contribute to pollinator decline, and that banning these products alone will not likely save the bees. Research does show, however, that these insecticides have negative impacts and that restricting their use would benefit pollinators. At least seven states so far have introduced legislation attempting to prohibit the use of neonicotinoid insecticides.
1) Pollinators are critical for productive agricultural crops, although one-third of bees have disappeared in the U.S. since 2006. The term pollinator also includes butterflies, bats and certain birds.
2) Pollinators–mostly honey bees–are responsible for one in every three bites of food, and increase national crop values by more than $15 billion a year.
3) Neonicotinoids can persist in soil for months or years after a single application. Measurable amounts have been found in woody plants up to six years after application. (Xeres Society)
4) The number of honey bee colonies has steadily declined from 6 million in 1947 to just 2.5 million today.
In the 2015 legislative session, 10 bills were introduced in 7 states to ban neonicotinoid pesticides.
- HB 20–Ban Neonicotinoid Pesticides
- HB 655–An Act Protecting Massachusetts Pollinators
- HB 605–Labeling Requirement for Neonicotinoid Pesticides
- SB 163 — Labeling Requirement for Neonicotinoid Pesticides
- LD 1105–An Act to Protect Bees and Other Pollinators
- HF 2029 — Sale and use of pesticide moratorium established
- SF 2193–Neonicotinoid insecticides and fironil sale or use moratorium established
- SF 2196–Integrated pest management appropriation
- A 1373–Prohibits use or sale of neonicotinoid pesticides
- H 236–An act relating to the use of neonicotinoid pesticides
Science and Reports
- Neonicotinoid Insecticides Impair Bee’s Brains — Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, 2015
Levels of neonicotinoid insecticides currently used in agriculture impairs bees’ brain cells and leads to poor performance by the colony. The research is the first to demonstrate such effects from the low levels found in nectar and pollen of plants. The research can be accessed here.
- Sub-lethal Exposure to Neonicotinoids Impaired Honey Bees Winterization Before Proceeding to Colony Collapse Disorder — Bulletin of Insectology, 2014
Harvard School of Public Health replicated a controversial 2012 finding that linked low doses of a neonicotinoid called imidacloprid with colony collapse disorder in bees. The 2014 replication of the study confirmed the previous conclusion, in addition to determining that a second neonicotinoid, clothianidin, had the same negative impact. The full study is available here.
Researchers found that a neonicotinoid insecticide called thiamethoxam can cause high mortality in honeybees by compromising their ability to navigate back to the hive. The full study is available here.
This study established a correlation between exposure to field-realistic neonicotinoid insecticides and reduced growth rate and production of queen bees. Treated colonies suffered an 85 percent reduction in production of new queens compared with control colonies.
Download the NCEL Fact Sheet with key points and links to legislation here.
- National Pollinator Health Strategy to Promote Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators — White House, 2015
This strategy report from the Pollinator Task Force outlines a comprehensive approach to tackling and reducing the impact of multiple stressors on pollinator health, including pests and pathogens, reduced habitat, lack
of nutritional resources, and exposure to pesticides. The full report is available here.
This document serves as a guide for land managers to effectively and efficiently use available resources and engage public and private partnerships in taking action for the conservation and management of pollinators and pollinator habitat on federal lands. The complete document is available here.
NCSL developed a collection of pollinator resources including state and federal actions. The full overview is available here.
This report reviews research on neonicotinoids in addition to highlighting knowledge gaps and research needs. Recommendations for protecting bees are also included, and the entire report can be viewed here.
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