Systemic Pesticides = death :(

bananasinohio(6OH)April 18, 2013

Been a while since I posted. I have been busy with all kinds of things. Most recently a talk on pollinators. During my research for this talk, I came across a really scary set of research papers and I have to share their info. They described the elimination of systemic pesticides through guttation drops. I will explain, but first a little background (please excuse the lengthiness of this post. I am trying to capture it in as few words as possible but it is hard for me as you know :).)

As most of you know, systemic pesticides are chemicals you typically apply to the soil, and or seed, that are taken up into the tissues of the plant. Insects are then (theoretically) exposed when they eat the plant. The most widely used of these chemicals are the neonicotinoids, specifically imidacloprid. Imidacloprid is the largest selling pesticide in the world. Chances are, if you purchase a plant at a commercial nursery, imidacloprid has been applied in the soil. Even if a salesperson tells you that they don't apply pesticides, they mean at the sales location (like a big box store). However, a systemic probably has been applied when the plant was first grown. Sometimes before it even germinates.

These pesticides have been implicated in colony collapse disorder (bees dying off). These pesticides are found in sub-lethal levels in nectar and pollen. The argument between scientists and the chemical companies is whether pesticides are responsible for CCD. It is difficult to prove conclusively because they are at sub-lethal levels.

I have seen at least one study that indicates that imidacloprid is found in flower nectars and that butterflies do not die drinking it. There is little research on what other effects it might have, other than death, because butterflies are not a commercially important species. Certainly, when applied to host plants, the caterpillars die.

However, this is the important scary part. I have now read two studies by researchers in Italy, that document high levels of systemic pesticides (including imidacloprid) in guttation drops. Guttation drops are water droplets expelled by plants at night. Plants use transpiration (the process of water moving through the plant through evaporation) to expel excess water and waste products. However, at night, they cannot use transpiration. So many have adapted by creating specialized cells to eliminate water and other waste products. What we think of as dew, is actually this process and the drops are called guttation drops. Many insects use this water, first thing in the morning to rehydrate.

Anyhow, the Italian researchers grew corn in fields, that the seeds had been treated with systemic pesticides. Bees where then exposed to the drops of water. They drank them and died within two minutes ( here is a video link but don't watch if you don't like seeing animals die ).

These pesticides are commonly applied not only to your flowers but also to our yards. Advantage is a common turf pesticide used to kill grubs. It's main ingredient is imidacloprid. I will let you draw your own conclusions. However, I cannot walk through wet morning grass without thinking about this. the argument in use of systemics was that we were not exposed to them because they were in the soils. Whoops, looks like we could be exposed to them in higher levels than before.

Oh, and by the way, they are now saying that they last in the soil up to 500 days.


"...A Novel Way for Intoxication for Bees"

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terrene(5b MA)

Thanks for posting this Bananas, it was interesting to learn about the guttation drops, but it is depressing to hear about the effects of systemic pesticides.

I wonder what people are thinking? They are not only potentially poisoning the target insects (whatever they may be or not be), but also non-target insects, wildlife, pets, and children. All for some bizarre aesthetic so that people can have pretty plants in the nursery and pretty lawns (the "green desert").

Do these pesticides break down eventually?

    Bookmark   April 18, 2013 at 9:43AM
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Amen to that! Pesticides and the people that use them are my pet peeve as a gardener. I'll take the bugs, please.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2013 at 10:38AM
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terrene(5b MA)

I wanted to add that I just went out to fill a bird bath, and water a few containers, and caught a whiff of the "weed and feed" that my neighbor was spreading this morning. Ugh, disgusting smell! I can only hope for rain in the next couple days so that most of it is washed down at least.

He insists on spreading whatever this crap is EVERY year along the edge of our property because the grass doesn't grow particularly well there - either too dry and shady from the Silver maples, or it burns out in full sun in his front yard. Well, I can attest to the fact that his "weed and feed" does not make grass grow there, but he keeps trying.

The other thing is, he is no doubt inhaling and likely having skin contact with that stuff as he's handling it - opening and pouring the bag, spreading it with any wind, etc.

Boy could I rant about this, but I will restrain myself. :)

    Bookmark   April 18, 2013 at 10:47AM
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The Pesticide Fact sheet from National Pesticide Information Center (a cooperative between Oregon State U. and US EPA) says that imidacloprid has a soil life of 188 - 997, days depending on the soil type, in non-agricultural soils. If you want to read more about it (and it is depressing) check out the fact sheet.

I totally empathize about the neighbor thing. I keep saying to myself "when did astroturf become the goal"? Certainly Vincent Van Gogh or Monet would never have painted that, finding it ugly and uninteresting. I want my kids to run around in the grass, chew on clover, make daisy chains, explore the small insects, like I did as a kid. I am beginning to question letting them run around the neighbors...

The sad part is it is a never ending cycle, you create a monoculture, invite pests, kill the predators, need more chemicals...I haven't sprayed my yard in eight years. Before that, it was minimal. I have very little if any pest problems. More spiders than you can shake a stick at. I know that freaks people our but the rewards are worth it. I live in a suburb of a medium sized city, surrounded by houses. Every year I get amazing migrating birds that no one else gets. I have whole flocks of thrushes in my yard. You can look around the neighborhood and see a flock of migrating birds in my yard and not a single bird in the surrounding houses. The bees are amazing. I must have several bumble bee nests around, not to mention, leaf cutter, small carpenter, sweat, mason, etc. I definitely have more butterflies as well.

Yes, it means living with insects, but to think that you can live on this planet without them is not only unrealistic, it is dangerous in the long run.

Here is a link that might be useful: Imidacloprid - Pesticide Fact Sheet from NPIC

    Bookmark   April 18, 2013 at 11:45AM
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Amen. Great testimonial from a responsible and respectful steward of the Earth and its inhabitants.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2013 at 1:55PM
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butterflymomok(7a NE OK)


Thanks for the information. Like you, we are the oasis in the midst of the manicured lawns. And the wildlife attests to that.

Keep sharing what you learn.


    Bookmark   April 18, 2013 at 10:28PM
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