Study: What’s Bad for Bees Could Be Bad for Marine Life, Too

Hakai Magazine discusses how bees and marine life are affected by Neonicotinoid insecticides. Preliminary research shows that a popular insecticide hampers arthropods in the ocean.

Over the past two decades, farmers hoping to ward off pests have increasingly turned to planting seeds that come straight from the supplier pre-coated in neonicotinoids, a controversial class of insecticide chemically related to nicotine. With the insecticide built into the seeds, farmers no longer have to spray their fields with toxic chemicals, theoretically reducing the risk to non-target species.

But as it turns out, neonics, as they’re also known, do impact other species—most famously honeybees, the steep decline of which has been linked to the insecticides. That discovery led the European Union to ban neonics in 2018. However, they remain widely used in the United States, as well as in Canada, though with some restrictions. Now, Haley Davis, an undergraduate student studying toxicology in marine ecosystems at Hollings Marine Laboratory in South Carolina, and her colleagues are raising yet another reason to be concerned about the insecticides. Neonics dissolve easily in water, they say, and could be harming marine life.

Davis and her fellow researchers presented the results of their examination into the effects of imidacloprid, a common neonicotinoid, on coral and reef-dwelling species that are vulnerable to runoff from coastal agriculture at a scientific meeting in February.

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