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New Research: Neonicotinoids Barely Found in Pollen of Seed-treated Plants

New Research: Neonicotinoids Barely Found in Pollen of Seed-treated Plants

31 March 2014

US - Neonicotinoids are a class of pesticide that has been popular with corn, cotton, canola and soybean farmers for years, writes Entomology Today.

Instead of spraying pesticides on plants growing in the field, seeds are treated with neonics before planting. As the crops grow, the pesticide is taken up by the plants, protecting them from insect damage.

However, this has been controversial in some areas because of possible damage to beneficial insects such as honey bees. In Europe, for example, three neonicotinoid pesticides have been banned for two years as officials examine the scientific studies on their effects.

Now new research from entomologists in the southeastern US shows that neonics may not be as harmful to bees as they are being portrayed because they are not being expressed in plant pollen or reproductive parts at levels that are high enough to hurt the bees — if at all.

“When we look at the literature and the Internet, what it says is that neonicotinoids applied as seed treatments are then taken up into the plant and expressed in the pollen and in the nectar,” said Dr. Gus Lorenz, extension entomologist with University of Arkansas. 

When the researchers tested corn, one neonic was not found at all in the pollen; two others were found, but at extremely low levels, with the highest having a mean of 2.3 parts per billion. To put that into perspective, one part per billion equals one second in 32 years.

When they tested soybean flowers and cotton nectar, they found no traces at all.

“It’s not being expressed in the reproductive parts of the plants,” said Dr. Lorenz.

Further Reading

You can read more about bee health by clicking here.

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