Bayer CropScience Ltd, Sherriff Amenity and Westland Horticulture Limited are some of the companies that manufacture this insecticide.
The populations of insectivorous birds such as the Common Starling and the Wood Swallow are declining in agricultural areas where high levels of neonicotinoid imidacloprid insecticide are found. This is the conclusion of the latest study published this week in the scientific journal Nature. This insecticide is the same that has been deemed responsible for the destruction of bee populations.
The research was conducted by biologists from Radboud University and the Sovon Field Ornithology Center; both in the Netherlands. The data used in the study was collected in different areas of the country but the results seem to indicate that this phenomenon is common to all areas where this insecticide is used in massive amounts.
Experts point out that many previous studies have linked the use of neonicotinoid insecticides with the mass death of bees as pollinators. Imidacloprid is the generic name of a neonicotinoid insecticide that is marketed under various brands. According to the UK-based Pesticide Action Network, some of the products that contain this poison are: Bug Free Extra, Provado Lawn Grub Killer, Valiant, Bug Attack Granules and Westland Plant Rescue Bug, among others. Companies involved in the production of these insecticides include Bayer CropScience Ltd, Sherriff Amenity, Westland Horticulture Limited and The Scotts Company (UK) Limited.
For a complete list of brand names, please visit PANs information page here.
The study is the first field that maps Imidacloprid potential to harm directly and indirectly – through the food chain in vertebrates. Imidacloprid’s power to harm the environment is greater than other poisons because it is one of the most widely used insecticides in agricultural systems worldwide.
Birds living in areas of crops in Europe have been in decline for years but there are local differences that have so far hindered an explanation for this phenomenon. Scientists from Nijmegen, the authors of this study, propose relating the declining bird populations with concentrations of neonicotinoids present in surface water as shown in the studied areas.
Field data show a clear trend
Researchers reviewed data on water quality analyzing the District Water Boards from government agencies and databases that records changes in land use to later compare these results with the bird census.
The result was the discovery of a clear tendency: the higher the concentration of imidacloprid on the water surface, the greater the reduction in the number of birds. In the fifteen species of birds that were included in the study, populations decreased on average by 3.5% percent per year in areas with more than 20 nanograms per liter of imidacloprid.
According to the study, these concentration is greatly exceeded in many parts of the Netherlands.
“We looked very thoroughly for other factors that could be related to the decrease in the number of birds and our analysis shows that imidacloprid is by far the factor that best explains the tendency of lost populations of these types of birds” stressed professor Hans de Kroon.
Foul determine the causes
Researchers do not yet know exactly what causes the decline of birds in areas treated with this insecticide, because in principle, the neurotoxic effect of this type of product does not affect vertebrates. Possible explanations include the lack of food due to the death of insects, eating contaminated insects and a combination of both.
For some species, eating insecticide coated seeds can not be excluded as an explanation. It is unclear, moreover, whether the presence of the insecticide can affect the reproductive capacity of the birds.
‘The neonicotinoids were always considered as selective toxic substances. However, results suggest that they may affect the whole ecosystem. This study shows how important it is to have a good sets of field data, and analyze such data with rigor. Through partnerships with organizations like Sovon, we can discover the ecological effects that would otherwise be overlooked,” said Professor Hans de Kroon.
Luis R. Miranda is the Founder and Editor of The Real Agenda. His 16 years of experience in Journalism include television, radio, print and Internet news. Luis obtained his Journalism degree from Universidad Latina de Costa Rica, where he graduated in Mass Media Communication in 1998. He also holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Broadcasting from Montclair State University in New Jersey. Among his most distinguished interviews are: Costa Rican President Jose Maria Figueres and James Hansen from NASA Space Goddard Institute. Read more about Luis.