U.S. Geological Survey - Environmental Health

Are Neonicotinoid Insecticides a Threat to Native Pollinator Health?

Native Bee Foraging on a Native Flower

Native bee foraging on a native flower in Logan County, Colorado. Photo Credit: Mark Vandever, USGS.

Neonicotinoid insecticides are effective tools used to control insect pests in urban and agricultural settings.

Crop Duster Plane Aerial Spraying Fungicides on Row Crops

Aerial spraying of pesticides on row crops in Iowa. Photo Credit: Dana W. Kolpin, USGS.

Their use has come under increasing scrutiny as one of several possible factors leading to unintentional loss of commercial honeybee colonies used to pollinate crops (Colony Collapse Disorder).

Wheat (Red) and Soy (Green) Seeds Coated with the Neonicotinoid Pesticide Imidacloprid

Wheat (red) and soy (green) seeds coated with the neonicotinoid pesticide imidacloprid. Photo Credit: Thomas G. Bean, USGS.

USGS Scientist Working with a Gas Chromatograph/Mass Spectrometer

U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientist uses a very sensitive instrument to measure concentrations of insecticides in sediments. Photo Credit: Cathy M. Munday, USGS.

Our specialized teams of hydrologists, chemists, biologists, and geologists working in laboratories and field sites across the United States were the first to develop methods and document environmental occurrence of neonicotinoids in about half the streams sampled across the United States. Neonicotinoids were also found in or on native bees foraging in agricultural fields.

Monarch Butterfly on a Plumeless Thistle Flower

A monarch butterfly drinks nectar from a plumeless thistle flower in an abandoned agricultural field. Photo Credit: Elizabeth A. Sellers, USGS.

Questions We're Working On:

Is the health of native pollinators such as the Monarch butterfly threatened by neonicotinoid insecticide exposure?

Can the placement of conservation plantings be optimized to benefit agricultural production while also protecting native pollinators from exposure to neonicotinoid insecticides?

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Page Last Modified: 04-Apr-2018 @ 03:16:17 PM EDT