What are neonicotinoids?
Neonicotinoids (neonics) are the most widely used insecticides globally. They are used on more than 140 crop varieties to control a variety of pests especially sap-feeding insects, such as aphids and root-feeding grubs. They are also common in veterinary applications such as tick control and flea collars for pets.
They are a relatively new type of insecticide. The first, imidacloprid, was launched by Bayer Cropscience in 1991. Since then a further six compounds have been put on the global market. By 2008, neonicotinoids had taken a 24% share of the total insecticide market of €6.330 billion.
Neonics are systemic pesticides. Unlike contact pesticides, which remain on the surface of the treated foliage, systemic pesticides are taken up by the plant and transported to all its tissues (leaves, flowers, roots and stems, as well as pollen and nectar). Products containing neonics can be applied at the root (as seed coating or soil drench) or sprayed onto crop foliage. The insecticide toxin remains active in the plant for many weeks, protecting the crop from pests season-long.
Between 2000 and 2016, the weight of neonicotinoids applied to all crops in the UK increased from 26,404kg to 87,704kg – an increase of 232%.