Findings show even small doses of insecticides reduce capacity of insects to survive — ScienceDaily


New research has identified a mechanism by which low levels of insecticides such as, the neonicotinoid Imidacloprid, could harm the nervous, metabolic and immune system of insects, including those that are not pests, such as our leading pollinators, bees.

A study published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences led by researchers at the University of Melbourne and Baylor College of Medicine, shows that low doses of Imidacloprid trigger neurodegeneration and disrupt vital body-wide functions, including energy production, vision, movement and the immune system, in the vinegar fly, Drosophila melanogaster.

With insect populations declining around the world and intense use of insecticides suspected to play a role, the findings provide important evidence that even small doses of insecticides reduce the capacity of insects to survive, even those that are not pests.

“Our research was conducted on one insecticide, but there is evidence that other insecticides cause oxidative stress, so they may have similar impacts,” Professor Philip Batterham, from the School of BioSciences and Bio21 Institute, at the University of Melbourne, said.

“Our findings emphasize the importance of better understanding the mechanisms of action of insecticides, in particular on beneficial insects. Without further research we do not know if other insecticides are any safer.”

Imidacloprid, has been banned from agricultural use by the European Union because of concerns about impacts on honeybees, but remains one of the top selling insecticides in the world. Attacking the central nervous systems of the insects, it increases the transmission of stimuli in the insect nervous system, activating receptors resulting in the insect’s paralysis and eventual death.

The researchers arrived at the findings by studying the effects of Imidacloprid in vinegar fly larvae. In the field, the insecticide is generally used at concentrations of up to 2,800 parts per million (ppm). In