A new UC Riverside study shows that a type of insecticide made for commercial plant nurseries is harmful to a typical bee even when applied well below the label rate.
The study was published today in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences.
Chemically similar to nicotine, neonicotinoids are insecticides that protect against plant-consuming insects like aphids, but seriously harm beneficial insects, like bees. They are widely used by commercial growers.
Much research has focused on their use in food crops like canola, in which they are typically applied at low doses. However, this study is one of the few to examine neonicotinoid application in potted ornamental plants, which can represent more potent, acute sources of exposure to the toxin for bees.
“Neonicotinoids are often used on food crops as a seed treatment,” explained UCR entomologist and lead study author Jacob Cecala. “But they’re usually applied in higher amounts to ornamental plants for aesthetic reasons. The effects are deadly no matter how much the plants are watered.”