|Neonicotinoids are a class of insecticides that are not only responsible for what the New York Times called “Insect Apocalypse”, but also for neurological and developmental harm (autism, memory loss, and tremors) in humans and birth defects. The three most commonly used neonicotinoids are banned in the EU, but these chemicals continue to be used in the US.
Initial studies by Bayer showed neonicotinoids to be nontoxic to people which resulted in widespread overuse. In Sonoma County, around 10,000 acres of agricultural land is treated annually with neonicotinoids. They are also used commonly in Sonoma County by residential pest control companies. Neonicotinoids are also found commonly in drugstore insecticides, bedbug treatments, and flea medicine. Nursery plants are also often pre-treated with neonicotinoids.
Neonicotinoids kill insects but not plants. They are “systemic” which means when a plant is exposed to them they become part of the plant tissue (including future pollen and fruit). It is NOT possible to wash or peel off neonicotinoids. They are commonly sprayed on non-organic grapes, corn, apples, strawberries, etc.
Neonicotinoids don’t break down easily and build up in soil and water. Center for Disease Control data shows that 50% of the US population was recently exposed to neonicotinoids. A Xerces Society study found neonicotinoids commonly in California’s surface water. A 2018 study of the Russian River Watershed found elevated levels of neonicotinoids.
The 97% decline in Western Monarch Butterflies, 29% decline in song birds, and 75% decline in flying insects are all linked to the United States’ widespread neonicotinoid use.
Neonicotinoids are a BIG problem but 3 small things you can do to help:
(1) Never buy garden plants or seeds treated with neonicotinoids, they will kill the insects in your garden for years to come. Emerisa Gardens, Harmony Farms, and Baker Creek are safe places to shop for plants and seeds in Sonoma County.
(2) Buy organic food especially apples, cherries, grapes (wine!), strawberries, and corn.
(3) Don’t use flea medicine, insect sprays, rose plant sprays, or bedbug treatments that contain neonicotinoids (unfortunately, most synthetic versions of these products do.)
Sonoma SASS is working to reduce the use of neonicotinoids and other synthetic pesticides by supporting regenerative agriculture, working toward synthetic pesticide bans in public spaces, and educating people on nontoxic pest control at home.