Neonicotinoids, or neonics for short, are a type of systemic insecticide used widely in farming, plant nurseries and home pest control. A chemical crop protection is “systemic” when it is absorbed by the plant and remains in its stems, roots, leaves, flowers and other parts. Neonics are either sprayed directly on the soil and on plants, or they are used to coat seeds for many crops. But like many chemical sprays, the toxic harms that neonics create aren’t just felt by the plants or seeds they are applied to, writes Sharalyn Peterson.
Neonics interact with the ecosystem as a whole. A substantial body of scientific evidence on these insecticides has found that they can stay in soils for years and they are easily transferred to waterways. This is leading to widespread impacts to human health, pollinators and other beneficial insects found in soils and waterways.
Studies on neonics have identified acute and chronic human health effects ranging from respiratory, cardiovascular, and neurological symptoms to genetic damage and birth defects. Neonics have also contributed to the decline of bees and other beneficial soil and aquatic insects. Neonics are absorbed into plants and show up in pollen and nectar sources, posing deadly impacts for pollinators in food gathering and colony performance. Neonics have also been found to shift soil physical properties and nutrient availability.
It’s not just pollinators like bees that we need to worry about, but also insects that are found in streams and other waters. The protection of aquatic insects from neonics is needed because these species are an important part of the food chain and a healthy ecosystem. Mayfly (Ephemeroptera) nymphs are one of the species that is most sensitive to neonicotinoids. This is worrisome as Mayfly nymphs are an important food source for young salmon and other fish. Mayflies are also an indicator of water quality and provide necessary ecosystems services such as filtration and decomposition.
Read the complete article at www.pesticide.org.