by
K.L. Heong, Senior Adviser, Centre for Agricultural BioSciences International (CABI), Serdang, Malaysia

Neonicotinoids and bees

Neonicotinoids and bees

The Star newspaper of Malaysia on 8 September 2014 published an article on “Buzz over neonics” giving a full description of the potential impact of neonicotinoid insecticides (or neonics in short) on bees and pollinators. (see http://goo.gl/u0Kh1h ). This 2-page article with a beautifully illustration of the lethal combination for bees aroused the concerns that I had about a few months ago (see http://goo.gl/pdTW0O ). And two LEGATO scientists, Professor Jose Settele and Dr Martin Wiemers, in September 2014 co-authored in three papers published in the journal “Environmental Science and Pollution Research”.

1. The Conclusions of the Worldwide Integrated Assessment on the risks of neonicotinoids and fipronil to biodiversity (Van der Sluijs et al 2014),

2. Ecosystem functioning and the impact of systemic pesticides on biodiversity and ecosystems (Simon-Delso et al, 2014) and

3. The effects of neonicotinoids and fipronil on non-target invertebrates (Pisa et al 2014).

All three papers concluded that because of the pesticides’ properties, at low concentrations, they pose considerable risks to the environment and ecosystem functions. The effects will be comparable to that of DDT and has been labeled the “new DDT”. They urged regulatory agencies to tighten regulations on the use of neonicotinoids and fipronil to reduce their use substantially. In addition there are health concerns as these systemic pesticides are neurotoxins and thus can affect the human brain. We have pointed out some of these chronic human health concerns that include Alzheimer’s disease and mental disorders among children of mothers exposed at the prenatal stages, like ADHD, autism and lowered IQ. Since these active ingredients are systemic and persistent they can remain in food products and can have direct threats not only to farmers but consumers in cities as well.

Secondary targets of neurotoxins (After Casida and Durkin, 2013)

Secondary targets of neurotoxins (After Casida and Durkin, 2013)

Although relatively safe from acute poisoning in humans, these systemic and persistent insecticide active ingredients can have devastating effects on bees and pollinators, hymenopteran parasitoids, aquatic fauna, birds and human health in particular neurological diseases. Bees, pollinator species and parasitoids belong to a large insect order, Hymenoptera, with rather similar nervous systems and susceptibility to the neurotoxic effects of the neonics. The Hymenopterans contribute the two most important ecosystem services for agriculture, pollination and biological control. The threat of the neonics to pollination can thus be very serious to agricultural production and the threats to biological control can contribute to more pest outbreaks, as seen in rice recently (Heong et al 2013). With the European Union restricting the use of several of these insecticides and the USA President Barack Obama creating a task force to address the issue of rapidly diminishing honey bees and other pollinators, we can soon expect a tsunami of these products coming onto our shores. China is the world’s largest producer of neonics and with the development of insecticide resistance some of the neonics have been removed from the market. This will further intensify the effects of the “neonicotinoid tsunami” coming to SE Asia.

Pic 3 tsunami

Pesticide tsunami

Pesticide regulatory systems are weak in most SE Asian countries and many pesticides as sold freely as FMCG (fast moving consumer goods) in unlicensed village retail shops. In many cases pesticides are sold in the market among vegetables and other household products. The neonicotinoid tsunami will very quickly spread these products uncontrollably throughout the region threatening food security in the medium term and human health in the long term. Both recent reviews urge regulatory agencies to act so as to prevent and avoid further damages spread of these of these products will incur. At the moment SE Asian countries are highly vulnerable to rapid spread of the neonics and fipronil because of the weak marketing regulations or house with no roof.

References

Casida, J.E. and Durkin, K.A. 2013. Neuroactive insecticides: Targets, selectivity, resistance and secondary effects. Annu. Rev. Entomol., 58, 99 – 117. (pdf)

Heong, K.L., Wong, L., Delos Reyes, JH. 2013. Addressing planthopper pest outbreak threats to the sustainable development of Asian rice farming and food security: Fixing the insecticide misuse. ADB Sustainable Development Working paper # 27. ADB, Manila, Philippines. (pdf)

Pisa L, Amaral-Rogers V, Belzunces LP, Bonmatin J-M, Downs C, Goulson D, Kreutzweiser DP, Krupke C, Liess M, McField M, Noome DA, Settele J, Simon-Delso N, Stark JD, Van der Sluijs JP, Van Dyck H and Wiemers M (2014) Effects of neonicotinoids and fipronil on non-target invertebrates. Environmental Sciences and Pollution Research. DOI: 10.1007/s11356-014-3471-x. http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs11356-014-3471-x (pdf)

Simon-Delso N, Amaral-Rogers V, Belzunces LP, Bonmatin J-M, Chagnon M, Downs C, Furlan L, Gibbons DW, Giorio C, Girolami V, Goulson D, Kreutzweiser DP, Krupke CH, Liess M, Long E, McField M, Mineau P, Mitchell EAD, Morrissey CAD,Noome DA, Pisa LW, Settele J, Stark JD, Tapparo A, Van Dyck H, Van Praagh J, Van der Sluijs JP, Whitehorn PR, Wiemers M (2014). Systemic insecticides (neonicotinoids and fipronil): trends, uses, mode of action and metabolites. Environmental Sciences and Pollution Research DOI: 10.1007/s11356-014-3470-y. http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11356-014-3470-y (pdf)

Van der Sluijs JP, Amaral-Rogers V, Belzunces LP, Bonmatin J-M, Chagnon M, Downs C, Furlan L, Gibbons DW, Giorio C, Girolami V, Goulson D, Kreutzweiser DP, Krupke C, Liess M, Long E, McField M, Mineau P, Mitchell EAD, Morrissey CA, Noome DA, Pisa L, Settele J, Simon-Delso N, Stark JD, Tapparo A, Van Dyck H, Van Praagh J, Whitehorn PR, Wiemers M (2014) Conclusions of the Worldwide Integrated Assessment on the risks of neonicotinoids and fipronil to biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. Environmental Sciences and Pollution Research. DOI: 10.1007/s11356-014-3229-5. (pdf)

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