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What Is A Neonicotinoid?

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What Is A Neonicotinoid?

Written by Texas A&M University

Neonicotinoids are a new class of insecticides chemically related to nicotine. The name literally means “new nicotine-like insecticides”.

Like nicotine, the neonicotinoids act on certain kinds of receptors in the nerve synapse.  They are much more toxic to invertebrates, like insects, than they are to mammals, birds and other higher organisms.

One thing that has made neonicotinoid insecticides popular in pest control is their water solubility, which allows them to be applied to soil and be taken up by plants.  Soil insecticide applications reduce the risks for insecticide drift from the target site, and for at least some beneficial insects on plants.

There are several different kinds of neonicotinoid insecticides.  The first neonicotinoid to reach the market was imidacloprid, a common ingredient in Bayer Advanced Garden insecticides.  This product can be sprayed on the plant, but is often more effective (especially on sucking insects) when applied to the soil.  Dinotefuran (Safari) is another, more highly water-soluble, neonicotinoid that is especially good on sap-feeding insects.

To find out whether an insecticide you see on the shelf of your hardware, pest control supply or garden center is a neonicotinoid, look on the list of active ingredients. If you see one of the following names listed, the insecticide includes a neonicotinoid:

  • Acetamiprid
  • Clothianidin
  • Dinotefuran
  • Imidacloprid
  • Nitenpyram
  • Thiocloprid
  • Thiamethoxam

In addition to being effective against sap-feeding pests, neonicotinoids provide good control against certain beetles (like white grub larvae in lawns), fleas (Advantage flea control products, and nitenpyram pills for pets), certain wood boring pests, flies (fly baits), cockroaches and others.

Environmental Concerns

Initially neonicotinoids were praised for their low-toxicity to many beneficial insects, including bees; however recently this claim has come into question. New research points to potential toxicity to bees and other beneficial insects through low level contamination of nectar and pollen with neonicotinoid insecticides used in agriculture.

Although these low level exposures do not normally kill bees directly, they may impact some bees’ ability to foraging for nectar, learn and remember where flowers are located, and possibly impair their ability to find their way home to the nest or hive.

Despite the controlled studies completed to date, the actual impact of neonicotinoid insecticides on honey bees in the field are difficult to measure.  It is still not known whether these effects explain bee colony collapse disorder, or have had any effect in agriculture or, especially, in urban areas.

The relative infrequency with which bees are expected to encounter neonicotinoid insecticides in urban landscapes suggest that the impact of these insecticides in backyard gardens, when used appropriately, is probably minor.  To keep risk to bees and other beneficials low, however, a few simple steps should be taken:

(1) follow the label directions carefully,

(2) restrict neonicotine applications to the soil, or during times when bees are not foraging (e.g., in the evening), and

(3) treat only those individual plants which need treatment for a known pest infestation.

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12 COMMENTS

  1. I used to use it on spring barley as a seed treatment at 90mls to the hectare , but experienced some bee losses as they love the nectar that comes out at head emergence /flowering . It seems only to be a problem in a short sharp season of about 70 days to flowering if it takes 90 days it seems to be fine.

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  2. Its responsible for trashing bee colonies, its extremely potent even if its just been used as a seed treatment (light coating dressed on the seed prior to sowing) it still remains in the plant right through to flowering. The bees the collect and consume pollen etc and it messes them up making them retarded to the point they lose their bearings get lost and die, if the whole hive are onto that crop it quickly leads to colony collapse.

    Its crazy to think that a seed coating prior to planting even at a low rate (as dougal says 90ml per hectare) is still present at flowering time, it likely persists through to harvest/grazing. If it affects bees then just imagine what long term effects are on animals and humans that consume the crops..

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      • Didnt ddt only affect insects once upon a time?

        Seed dressings is just one of the many chems that go on, how many passes did you spray your barley with?
        Seed dressing
        Knockdown
        Pre emergent
        Post emergance broadleaf/grasses
        Growth regulator
        Insectacide
        Fungicide
        Pre harvest

        I worked boadacre cropping in WA as a boomspray operator, i put on roadtrain after roadtrain of chemicals it was mindblowing, never new what was in our beer, bread, canola oil until i done that.

        There are other chemicals we use in nz (usually we handgun for gorse/broom) that overseas they boomspray. they then harvest the pasture/crop for silage, feed it in the winter and then after the animals crapped it out they compost it… put that compost on your garden youll never grow a crop again, the chem has endured weather, ensiling, digestion, composting and its still present in enough quantity to created twisted deformed growth and eventually death of the seedling.

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  3. Vegetables are grown in a toxic soup of fungicides, herbicides and insecticides. All commercial vegetables are genetically modified freaks that don’t exist in nature.

    There is nothing sustainable about vegetarianism.

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  4. Heard sheep farmers are having huge trouble with lice now Diazinon is banned.
    The new chemicals including the pour ons are just not delivering.
    Diazinon on the other hand has a 3 day withholding when used on tomatoes and when used PROPERLY as a dip has not caused any recorded problems..
    Just saying L

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