The Dangers of Neonicotinoid Pesticides

Recent studies have highlighted many possible dangers of neonicotinoid pesticides. These systemic, persistent chemicals are harming bees — and they may be harming us, too.

February/March 2014

By Shelley Stonebrook

Flying Honey Bee

Named for their chemical structure, which is similar to that of nicotine, neonicotinoids are systemic pesticides, meaning they’re in every part of a plant. Evidence linking these neonicotinoid pesticides to the honeybee decline known as colony collapse disorder has been mounting. Now, new research suggests residues could be harmful to humans.

Not only are neonicotinoid pesticides systemic, they’re also extraordinarily persistent. Research shows these pesticides can persist in the soil for more than a decade. Neonicotinoids are widely used on corn, soy, canola, sugar beets, wheat, ornamentals and more. While many countries have banned neonicotinoid pesticides, they are still in widespread use in the United States. Learn more about these dangerous chemicals:

It’s Time to Ban Dangerous Neonicotinoid Pesticides
Research shows that potent neonicotinoid pesticides, used on many crops in the United States, pose serious threats to bees and potentially to humans.

Neonicotinoid Insecticides: Are Your Nursery Plants Being Treated With Bee-Killing Chemicals?
Several popular home stores are selling nursery plants treated with bee-killing chemicals, including potent neonicotinoid insecticides, also called “neonics.”

Buy Organic: Reject Neonicotinoid Insecticides
Linked to the deaths of millions of honeybees worldwide, neonicotinoid insecticides may also pose significant health risks to humans. You can help convince more farmers to shun toxic neonicotinoids and other persistent chemicals by buying from organic growers.

Save the Bees — Ban Neonicotinoid Pesticides
Learn why systemic neonicotinoid pesticides widely used to grow corn are one of the reasons so many honeybees and other pollinators are dying.

Consumers Urge Garden Store Giants to Stop Selling Neonicotinoid Pesticides
Sign the petition created by SumOfUs.org to ask Home Depot, Lowe’s and other major garden stores to stop selling neonicotinoids — the bee-killing ingredient commonly found in pesticides.

Support the ‘Save America’s Pollinators Act’ to Suspend the Use of Neonicotinoid Pesticides
A new act calls for the suspension of the bee-harming pesticides classified as “neonics” until a full review demonstrates they aren’t harmful to bees.

Time for Emergency Action on Pesticide in Order to Protect Bees
Beekeepers and environmental groups are still on hold for the Environmental Protection Agency’s response to the more than 250,000 legal petitions citing “imminent” harm to bees.

European Union Protects Bees but U.S. Continues to Allow Neonicotinoid Pesticides
Scientific evidence linking neonicotinoid pesticides to bee deaths is extensive, and the European Union has recently voted to ban the poisonous substance for two years.

New Bee Bill Gets Tough on Pesticides
Congress will consider a bill deferring the registration of certain neonicotinoid pesticides in order to analyze its correlation with the declining bee population.

Report Cites Multiple Causes, Including Pesticides, of Colony Collapse Disorder
A summary and critique of the 23-page Congressional Research Service report “Bee Health: The Role of Pesticides” about the causes of colony collapse disorder.

Systemic Pesticides: Chemicals You Can’t Wash Off
Washing or peeling fruits and vegetables won’t protect you from systemic pesticides spread throughout the plant's tissues.

Tell the EPA to Immediately Suspend Clothianidin: The Pesticide That’s Killing Bees
A study released by Europe’s leading food safety authority, EFSA, has labeled the pesticide clothianidin as an “unacceptable” danger to bees. Sign this petition to suspend the use of this dangerous neonicotinoid pesticide.

Join the BeeAction Campaign
Gardeners bee-ware! Pesticides causing bee die-off are found in “bee-friendly” plants that are sold at garden centers nationwide.

Another Study Links Bee Population Decline to Neonicotinoid Pesticides
Harvard University researchers find that potent systemic pesticides called neonicotinoids, which are common in industrial agriculture, are contributing to alarming bee population decline.

Photo by Fotolia/Alexey Protasov


Shelley Stonebrook is MOTHER EARTH NEWS magazine’s main gardening editor. She’s passionate about growing healthy, sustainable food and taking care of our environment. Follow her on Twitter, Pinterest and .

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