Evaluation of Neonicotinoid Insecticide Use on MDC Lands

Wetland Pool with waterfowl
Project Summary

Neonicotinoids are a class of chemical insecticide widely used as pre-planting seed treatments on major agricultural crops such as corn, soybeans, canola, and cereals (e.g., wheat) to control insect agricultural pests. Recently concerns have been raised about the potential immediate and long-term effects of these chemicals on bees and aquatic invertebrates. In addition to toxicity concerns regarding non-target species, these chemicals are relatively water soluble and persistent in soil, raising concern about contamination of surface waters in the vicinity of their use. Widespread occurrence of neonicotinoids in water bodies such as rivers, streams and wetlands has raised questions on what impacts these insecticides may have on non-target ecosystems and organisms. 

As a result of these concerns, the approved use of these chemicals in agricultural systems is being re-evaluated in countries such as the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom.
Neonicotinoids are systemic chemicals, meaning the active ingredient is translocated throughout a growing plant, making all parts of the plant toxic to insects that feed on it. As a result, all parts of a treated plant, including nectar and pollen, receive some dose of insecticide which increases the potential of adverse effects on non-target insects.

Given the emerging evidence for potential impacts of neonicotinoids on many types of animals and insects, the MDC initiated several projects to determine

  1. if use of neonicotinoid-treated seeds in association with agricultural activities on MDC properties result in concentrations of these insecticides in MDC wetlands at levels that result in ecological impairment, particularly to aquatic invertebrates 
  2. the prevalence of neonicotinoids in the surrounding landscape and water sources and whether these concentrations on MDC properties could have detrimental effects on aquatic invertebrates
  3. to determine the impact of annual neonicotinoid seed-treatment use on non-target terrestrial insect communities, principally native bees, in Missouri agroecosystems and 
  4. evaluate impacts of neonicotinoids on native bee nesting efforts, development, and reproductive success among solitary bee communities of agroecosystems.

These studies are being carried out to help to direct future management decisions for planted acreages on Department areas. The Department of Conservation plants approximately 67,000 acres of agricultural crop annually on Department areas to provide optimal production of wildlife food and cover with use of accepted best farm management practices, and are managed to provide the best economic return consistent with resource management objectives.