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EGG-NEWS Reverses Stance on Neonicotinoid Insecticides


EGG-NEWS has supported the continued use of neonicotinoid insecticides but growing evidence that their application is deleterious to insect pollinators is cause for reevaluation.  Although there is no direct proof that neonicotinoids are responsible for bee-colony collapse syndrome, under certain circumstances this class of insecticides can reduce the population of pollinators critical to orchards and insect-pollinated crops.


A recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences demonstrated that uptake of neonicotinoids sprayed on foliage or on soil accumulated in mealy bugs. Their honeydew excretion was toxic to parasitic wasps and hoverflies responsible for pollination.  Hoverflies consuming honeydew from trees sprayed with thiamethoxam died within three days compared to mortality of 10 percent in a control group.  In evaluating application of thiamethoxam to soil, 70 percent of hoverflies consuming honeydew from mealy bugs in the treated group died compared to 14 percent in the control group.  The indirect toxicity of neonicotinoids through consuming honeydew secreted by mealy bugs is yet another example of how toxins can interact in the food chains of beneficial insects.


It is necessary therefore to clearly identify mechanisms by which these highly effective insecticides are responsible for adverse effects and to modify application.  Clearly from the perspective of domestic gardeners or other non-commercial agricultural enterprises, the application of neonicotinoids is unacceptable. Integrating this class of insecticides into commercial agriculture requires evaluation with use restrictions short of outright bans as in E.U. nations.