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Neonicotinoids, What You Need To Know.
May 06, 2019

All is well around here.

A bit behind on outdoor work.

I can blame the weather for that, however.

My girls (human and fur kids), are all well too.

If you have been a reader for any length of time, you know spring is my favorite season.

You possibly know that May is my all time favorite month of the year.

So much happens in May.

At least here in the northern regions.

The world comes to life.

Spring flowers bloom.

Lawns, trees and other vegetation changes the landscape as they awaken from winter's slumber.

(I've shared pictures of one of my Red Maples, in bud, bloom, and now the little seeds growing.)

People actually step outside to enjoy the warmth of the sun, etc.

I too enjoy the wildlife that surrounds me.

Especially all the birds and activity.

A few years  ago, Osprey have made a cell tower not too far from here as their home base.

They arrived a few weeks ago.

Some Canada geese are showing off their young ones already.

Female robins collecting nesting material (Males select the territory, females select the nest site and construct it.)

Winter migrants leave for parts north of here (Juncos, Tree Sparrows, and so on.)

Transients passing through such as Yellow-throated sparrows, Kinglets, and White-crowned sparrows (pictured below).

The welcoming sights and sounds of the many migratory birds that come throughout May, and spend the season here.

Birds like Baltimore orioles and Rose-Breasted grosbeaks.

Both arrived this past week (males only).

(Male Red-Belly woodpecker.)

Still awaiting the Ruby-throated hummingbirds, and a host of others.

And then there are the many year round residents that give life to our landscapes.

I'm sure you have your share of migratory birds you look forward to every year as well.

This may seem a bit lengthy, yet only scratches the surface.

This week touches on 'Neonicotinoids'.

Your need to know before the growing season is in full force.

Take your time.


Neonicotinoids  are a class of neurotoxic active insecticides chemically similar to nicotine.

In the 1980s Shell and in the 1990s Bayer started work on their development.

(Imidacloprid is the most widely used insecticide in the world.)

Compared to organophosphate and carbamate insecticides, neonicotinoids cause less toxicity in birds and mammals than insects.

The neonicotinoid family includes  acetamiprid, clothianidin, nimidaclprid, nithiazine, nitenpyram, thiamethoxam, and thiacloprid, (like this means a lot to you).

Some breakdown products are also toxic to insects.

Neonicotinoid use has been linked in a range of studies to adverse ecological effects, including honey-bee colony collapse disorder (CCD) and loss of birds due to a reduction in insect populations.

The findings used to be conflicting, but recent studies by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) have confirmed the risk to bees.

In 2013, the European Union and a few non EU countries restricted the use of certain neonicotinoids.

In 2018, the EU banned the three main neonicotinoids (clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam) for all outdoor uses.

Europe is always ahead of The United states and Canada when it come of chemical bans.

I guess they care more about people than money.

Several states in the United States have also restricted usage of neonicotinoids out of concern for pollinators and bees.


Some facts about neonicotinoids:

Neonicotinoids are active substances used in plant protection products to control harmful insects, which means they are insecticides.

The name literally means "new nicotine-like insecticides". They are chemically similar to nicotine.

The name neonicotinoids is sometimes shortened to "neonics" or "NNIs.

The first neonic was approved in the EU in 2005, since banned from use.

Neonics are systemic pesticides.

Unlike contact pesticides, which remain on the surface of the treated leaves, systemic pesticides are taken up by the plant and transported throughout the plant (leaves, flowers, roots and stems, as well as pollen and nectar).

Neonics are much more toxic to invertebrates, like insects, than they are to mammals, birds and other higher organisms (so they want us to believe).

Neonics affect the central nervous system of insects, leading to eventual paralysis and death.

(Osprey nest.)

Pay Attention now.

Neonicotinoids are now the most widely used insecticides in the world and the most studied class of insecticides for bees.

Neonicotinoids are used in over 120 countries and have 140 different crop uses.

They can be sprayed onto foliage or applied as soil drenches, but they are predominantly used as seed treatments.

When used this way, neonicotinoids are taken up by all parts of the plant as it grows.

This means these systemic insecticides are present in pollen and nectar that pollinators can come in contact with when foraging.

In addition, they have been found on neighboring flowers and grass (even at levels higher than the crops they were applied to).

In nearby waterways, and they persist in the soil for long periods of time.

Now we are talking a whole new ballgame.

Worms ingest this stuff, birds eat worms, enough toxic build ... you see where I am going with this.

Not to mention aquatic life.

The ability for these insecticides to escape into the environment and affect non-target organisms has sparked a lot of research interest into evaluating their implications and risks.

It is here that the controversy lies.

Overall, the majority of laboratory and semi-field research demonstrates neonicotinoids can be harmful to honey bees; however, the majority of field studies find only limited or no effects on honey bees. 

I guess it depends on who pays for that given study.

As you recall last year I wrote on Monsanto and all the government agencies in their pockets.


The most convincing evidence for the effect of these pesticides come from large-scale field studies that investigate the real world effects of bees pollinating our agricultural systems.

Of these types of studies accomplished to date with the honey bee (nine in total), only four report at least some negative consequences.

The impact of neonicotinoids on bumble bees is more in agreement.

The majority of lab, semi field, and field studies report negative implications of neonicotinoids. Of four field studies investigating bumble bees, three report such effects.

These bees are about 2-3 times more sensitive than honey bees to neonicotinoid toxicity.

Neonicotinoids also cause more lethal and sub-lethal effects on bumble bees compared to other pesticides.

I have written in the past the importance of all pollinators, especially our native bees.

For example, Bumblebees pollinate tomatoes and other plants, where other bees can't.

Here Are Some Lab Studies:

Laboratory studies investigating honey bees find neonicotinoids are associated with the following outcomes:

Increased mortality.

Impaired feeding.

Impaired locomotion.

Altered learning and memory.

Impaired foraging.

Reduced immunity.

Lab studies also find neonicotinoids affect bumble bees in the following ways:

Increased mortality.

Reduced colony growth.

Reduced brood production.

Reduced nest construction.

Impaired feeding [articles in support.

There is contradicting evidence for the effect on locomotion. 

Laboratory studies examining wild bees report the following impacts:

Reduced brood production.
Altered locomotion.

Taken together, these studies demonstrate that in laboratory conditions, neonicotinoids can be harmful to bees.

They evaluate how neonicotinoids cause impairments at the individual level. 

These studies do not represent neonicotinoid exposure in normal agricultural settings.

Honey bees and bumble bees are social animals found in colonies, and they forage on a variety of plant sources.

There could be buffered effects from being in a colony environment and from the presence of other pollen and nectar types that are not taken into account through laboratory studies.

(Chickadee feeding on a raw peanut half.)

I haven't found research studies on butterflies, however there has to be some effects on their population as well.

Bees are responsible for more than 30% of our food.

Birds keep a check on insects populations, while blessing us with their presence.

Aquatic life at risk.

Not to mention our bodies becoming dump sites for toxins.

10-15 years ago when I was working at a large garden center, Neonicotinoids and their dangers came to the forefront.

Some plant growers would label their stock as 'neonicotinoid free'.

Others would not.

Many retail centers don't encourage the idea of letting a customer know this (including where I worked).

Ask questions.

grow your own if possible.

Find a reputable nursery/garden center.

You too have some responsibilities in this mess.

Well, it is time to fly for now.

Before I go, here is your positive thought for the week.

God Bless.

"Courage is not simply one of virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point."

Courage isn't simply a virtue, it is an action.

Courage requires us to be on our toes, stand strong,

Now from the word of God.

"Be on the alert, stand firm, act like a man, be strong"

1 Corinthians 16:13

"Treat the earth well:

It was not given to you by your parents,

It was loaned to you by your children.

We do not inherit the Earth from our

Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children."

Ancient Indian Proverb.

A Blessed week to you .

Your friend indeed,

Ron Patterson

PS. If you enjoy these letters, please forward them to friends, family and co-workers.

Better yet, have them sign up so they can receive their own letters.

Gardening For Wildlife.

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