There is evidence to suggest that a new breed of pesticides is causing more damage to UK wildlife than was previously thought. The pesticides, which have already been linked to fatalities among bee populations, may also be having adverse effects elsewhere, it is now thought.
What are Neonicotinoids?
Neonicotinoids, the dangerous pesticides implicated in recent dwindling bee numbers, were introduced in the mid-nineties and are now the world’s most widely used pesticides. The EU recently
banned the use of these pesticides on crops which could have an impact on bees, such as oilseed rape, for a two year period as of December 2012, but there is now further evidence to suggest increasing the ban as a study suggests that neonicotinoids can be dangerous to water, soil and grain too and the harm caused by them could therefore be much more far reaching.
The study, by Professor Dave Goulson from Sussex University, claims that we may have been missing the big picture by focusing too much on the plight of bee populations alone. This, he thinks, is just a small part of a much wider problem related to these dangerous pesticides. The study, published in the Journal of Applied Ecology has focused on the wider implications of neonicotinoids.
What impact are they having?
This group of chemicals, which includes imidacloprid, are systemic poisons which last a long time, both in water and in soil and can be toxic to all insects which come into contact with them. They are usually applied to the seeds of plants but spread through the plant as it grows.
It is estimated that 90% of the dangerous ingredients end up in the soil and groundwater following application to the plant, meaning their effect could be widespread and the chemicals can reside there for up to ten years.
The effect this could have on the UK wildlife is massive – birds that eat the seeds, for example, can be affected, only a few grains could contain enough neonicotinoids to form a lethal dose for a partridge or other similar bird and a concentration in water as low as one part per billion could be enough to kill mayflies.
The exact extent of the damage being done by these pesticides at present is still unclear, as Prof Goulson admits, but it is a finding which warrants much further study. Further research carried out elsewhere has highlighted the effect on birds and fish and backs up the case for looking closely into the problem in the UK.
Prof Goulson believes that lots of tests need to be carried out on soils and waterways in an attempt to further understand the extent of the problem. There is reason enough to believe that insects are being exposed to these poisonous chemicals and given that we know the potential damage is huge, we should not hesitate in examining the issue further. If you are concerned about the impact of neonicotinoids where you are and may want an ecological survey carrying out, click here.