Perspectives on the Pollinator Issue

Bumble bee in mid-flight near Cassia hebecarpa, wild senna. Source: C. Neal, UNH Cooperative Extension.

The Northeastern IPM Center provides the following synopsis of two prevailing views on neonicotinoids and pollinators. Our goal is to bring this scientific discussion to your attention, not necessarily to promote either view.

Activist View: Growing numbers of scientists warn against neonicotinoid use.

Hundreds of reputable studies have been done linking neonicotinoids to bee infirmity and death. See the July 2014 Worldwide Integrated Assessment of Systemic Pesticides on Biodiversity and Ecosystems, a review of 800 peer-reviewed reports, concluding that neonicotinoids pose a threat to global biodiversity.

No one would suggest that neonics are the sole cause of mass bee die-offs. Neonicotinoid pesticides may interact with other insecticides and fungicides, as well as with parasites and viruses, in diminishing bee immune defenses.

Practices recommended by major pesticide manufacturers, like mowing plants in bloom before spraying, along with putting flowering margins around fields to provide pesticide-free bee habitats—cannot mitigate the crisis being caused by chemical agents.

Scientific data are strong enough to outweigh industry-funded studies. The stakes are high for ecosystems and for food production.

Industry View: Growers are concerned about the health of bees, too.

Neonicotinoids provide systemic protection of crops. They are precise and easy to use, and are relatively safe for people, animals, and beneficial insects.

If neonicotinoids were not available, growers would face higher operating costs and more time required associated with frequent application of older chemistries. This would create additional safety concerns for workers, their families and themselves. It would result in decreased yields and reduced product quality. It would mean less effective pest control and a return of pests growers thought were gone or controlled.

Alternative insecticides would kill the beneficial insects growers count on; and some pests would have no effective controls or predators.

A complex array of factors is associated with pollinator health issues, and neonicotinoids are only one of numerous possible contributing factors.


The Northeastern IPM Center promotes integrated pest management for reducing risks to human health and the environment. If republishing our news, please acknowledge the source (“From Northeast IPM Insights”) along with a link to our website.