Are Neonicotinoids Killing Wild Bees and Butterflies
More studies have been released highlighting how neonicotinoids affect bee populations as well as butterflies.
For years now, the agrochemical companies responsible for
manufacturing neonicotinoids, have defended their products, in the face of
substantial independent field and laboratory research highlighting the dangers
of these widely used pesticides, to bees and other pollinators. Over 800 papers were assessed by the IUCN,
and the EFSA recommended restrictions to the use of some of these chemicals.
Study: Impacts of neonicotinoid use on long-term population changes in wild
bees in England
Some worrying findings quoted from the paper:
- “We relate 18 years of UK national wild bee distribution
data for 62 species to amounts of neonicotinoid use in oilseed rape. Using a
multi-species dynamic Bayesian occupancy analysis, we find evidence of increased
population extinction rates in response to neonicotinoid seed treatment use on
Note: this is despite attempts to assist pollinators with
increased pollinator margins:
- “plant species richness on arable and horticulture land
increased by 30% between 2000 and 2007, partly due to an increase in sown
wildflower field margins which are used by wild bees. Arable land therefore
improved rather than declined in its quality for many wild bees over the period
The research was published in Nature, and you can find
the full study by copying and pasting the following into your browser:
What about butterflies?
Some years ago I highlighted the fact that some patents
for products containing neonicotinoids indicate that the product can be used to
“control” non-target insects such as Lepidoptera (i.e. butterfly and moth) species.
To my mind it seems obvious therefore, that
such data within patents should be taken into account when assessing applications
to register them.......
........whilst also taking account of the fact that manufacturers may
be reluctant to mention on a patent whether a product is lethal to bees (because a product
posing “unacceptable risk” to bees cannot legally be approved), whereas it is
safe for pesticide manufacturers to admit killing a close relative – i.e. Vespa
(wasp) species without risk of their application to register the pesticide being
Two recent papers outline the effects of neonicotinoids
on butterflies, and it’s not good news – hardly a surprise!
Are neonicotinoid insecticides driving declines of widespread butterflies?
In the UK, in a joint study completed by Sussex and
Stirling Universities, researchers found
population trends of 15 species showed declines associated with neonicotinoid
use, including Small Tortoiseshell, Small Skipper and Wall species. The study is based on data gathered from more
than 1000 sites across the UK as part of the long-running UK Butterfly
You can read more about it here: https://peerj.com/articles/1402/
neonicotinoid use and the declining butterfly fauna of lowland California
Some key points copied from the study:
- A negative association between butterfly populations and
increasing neonicotinoid application is detectable while controlling for land
use and other factors, and appears to be more severe for smaller-bodied
species. These results suggest that neonicotinoids could influence non-target
insect populations occurring in proximity to application locations.
- “Notably, neither land conversion, nor shifting
temperatures show evidence of increased rate of change concomitant with the
butterfly declines beginning in the late 1990s. However, neonicotinoid use in the region began
to increase dramatically at that time. Here, we analyse neonicotinoid
application records in relation to both the total number of butterfly species
observed per year, and in relation to occupancy records for individual species,
while controlling for land use and climatic effects”.
- A dramatic decline in the numbers of butterfly species
observed annually is evident, starting in the late 1990s: the breakpoint
estimated by spline inflection was 1997 . Neonicotinoid use began in the region in 1995
and has been increasing dramatically in comparison with other insecticides
- A relationship between neonicotinoid application and the
number of butterfly species was also successfully modelled (– i.e. the model
showed a relationship between neonicotinoid use and butterfly decline).
You can read more by copying this link into your browser: http://rsbl.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/12/8/20160475
Further article: "Vanishing Act: Why Insects Are Declining and Why It Matters "
- "The decline is dramatic and depressing and it
affects all kinds of insects, including butterflies, wild bees, and
hoverflies,” - says Martin
Sorg, an entomologist from the Krefeld Entomological
Association involved in running the monitoring project.
- "Our study reveals, through one detailed
example, that even official protection status can't really prevent dramatic
species loss,” - says Thomas
Schmitt, director of the Senckenberg Entomological Institute.
- Jürgen Deckert,
insect custodian at the Berlin Natural History Museum, says he is worried that "the decline in insect populations is
gradual and that there's a risk we will only really take notice once it is
Read the article by copying and pasting this link inot your browser:
How do neonicotinoids work to kill insects like bees?
Manufacturers provide clues!
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