Neonicotinoids and pollinator health - background

On 01 December 2013 EU wide restrictions were imposed on three neonicotinoids– clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam. The restriction comprises a two year ban on the use of these pesticides as a seed dressing on flowering crops and spring planted cereals. The active substances can continue to be used as a seed dressing on crops such as sugar beet and on winter cereals as a foliar spray.


Various studies have implicated some neonicotinoids in the decline of bee and pollinator populations. It is claimed that current regulatory practices do not adequately assess the long-term and sub-lethal effects of such pesticides. However, these studies are contentious and other studies have found no effect on bees when neonics are used in normal field situations.


This is an important point. Insecticides are, after all, intended to harm insects, and so laboratory studies may often identify harm to pollinators. The crucial issue is whether, when used in the manner set out as part of a product’s regulatory approval, it causes harm in the field. After almost 20 years of research into the effects of neonicotinoids on bees, studies conducted using realistic exposure scenarios have failed to demonstrate significant adverse effects to honeybee colonies where neonicotinoid based products are applied correctly.


It is widely accepted that bee health is affected by a variety of factors with key threats identified as habitat loss, climate change, Varroa, viruses and diseases. Recent research shows that honeybee declines have not been as dramatic as initially thought.

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