I have posted in the past about neo-nicotinoids and honey bees. The neonicotinoids are synthetic insecticides with chemistry based on the plant produced insecticide, nicotine. Nicotine has a long history of use as an insecticide. Native Americans would grind tobacco leaves and mix the powder with water to make an insect control concoction. Nicotine is sold commercially, but it has limited usefulness, primarily because its residue does not persist in the environment. Nicotine insecticides can cause poisoning in humans. Chemists have created neonicotinoids that are more persistent in the environment and are far less toxic to humans than to insects. The neonicotinoids have replaced some of the organophosphorous pesticides that are the most toxic to humans. The neonicotinoids are a huge improvement in lowering the risk to human health and safety.
Neonicotinoids are available for use by homeowners because their low human toxicity allows untrained people to apply them safely. However, some of the neonicotinoids are the most toxic pesticides to honey bees currently in use. The high toxicity raises concerns about bee kills from common misuse of pesticides or lack of compliance with instructions. Improper use of neonicotinoids by uneducated homeowners is a threat to honey bees and native bees.
We need more information on how use of neonicotinoids by homeowners are affecting bees. There is clearly a potential for homeowners to kill bees through the use of neonicotinoids. Homeowners should use caution in applying neonicotinoids or any other pesticide and perhaps should consider not applying neonicotinoids in situations where the neonicotinoid could contaminate the nectar and pollen of bee pollinated plants.The Xerces Society, the preeminent organization dedicated to conservation of butterflies and other endangered invertebrate species, has published a review of the neonicotinoid insecticides and their effects on honey bees and other pollinators. The report documents what we know about neonicotinoids and outlines a number of issues that require further research. We need to know how much of the neonicotinoids can be used without adverse effects on bees and strategies for avoiding bee toxicity. What rules and regulations need to be in place for homeowners? What formulations will reduce harm to bees? The study especially calls into question the potential harm from seed treatments which are becoming standard practice in agriculture. The Xerces review is a good introduction for anyone interested in the effects of neonicotinoids on bees. A pdf can be downloaded form the Xerces Society website.