Golf Course Management

OCT 2014

Golf Course Management magazine is dedicated to advancing the golf course superintendent profession and helping GCSAA members achieve career success.

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86 GOLF COURSE MANAGEMENT 10.14 Neonicotinoid insecticides and pollinators: What's all the buzz about? Pesticide applicators should take precautions to protect pollinators from potential danger. Doug Richmond, Ph.D. Aaron Patton, Ph.D. Recent events and mounting scientifc evi - dence have increased concerns that the wide- spread use of neonicotinoid insecticides may be at least partially responsible for the declin - ing health of honey bees (Apis mellifera), wild pollinators and other wildlife across North America. Similar concerns across the Atlan - tic have prompted the European Commission to implement a two-year moratorium on the use of neonicotinoid insecticides, but the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (12) has taken a more measured approach toward the issue. Although the EPA is not currently banning or restricting the use of neonicoti - noid insecticides, these products are being subjected to registration review to ensure they meet current health and safety standards. The EPA has also mandated that labels for many, but not all, insecticide products containing neonicotinoids incorporate a new "bee advi - sory icon" drawing attention to the specifc hazards associated with their use (Figure 1). To ensure that these products remain available for its use, the green industry must demon - strate that its members are using these prod- ucts responsibly. We need to be proactive in addressing the concerns of regulators and take concrete steps to minimize the potential for negative environmental side effects associated with insecticides used to manage insect pests of turfgrass and ornamental plants. The danger to honey bees A look at the broader picture will show what is at stake. About one-third of our food supply depends on the services of pollinators. Without these services, our food supply would be at risk. Bees are important, and the declin - ing health of bees across North America has made a lot of people very nervous. At present, it cannot be said with confdence that neo - nicotinoids are the sole — or even the main — force driving honey bee declines; there are simply too many other factors at play. What is known is that neonicotinoids are extremely toxic to bees (Table 1) and, given current usage patterns, there is almost no place in time or space where they can avoid exposure to these compounds. This is especially the case in agriculturally productive areas of the U.S. where the total amount of neonicotinoid in - secticide applied per square mile can approach 2 pounds (0.91 kilogram) of active ingredi - ent (Figure 2). One would be hard pressed to name a single crop where neonicotinoids are not routinely used. Media attention began to focus on the po - tential link between neonicotinoids and the decline of honey bees after a study by some of our Purdue colleagues working in feld crops was published in 2012 (6). Almost every sin - gle kernel of seed corn planted in the Midwest is coated with enough of the neonicotinoid insecticide clothianidin (Poncho, Bayer; oth - ers) to kill approximately 80,000 honey bees. Most annual crop seeds are planted using pneumatic ("air") planters that use vacuum to place individual seeds onto planting discs for precise placement. The dust (planter exhaust) generated during the planting process liber - ates a surprising amount of the insecticide, which then settles out in adjacent fence rows, old felds, prairies, forests and water sources where honey bees and other pollinators are likely to forage. The authors also reported Figure 1. The U.S. EPA requires this bee advisory icon to be placed on the label of most insecticide products containing a neonicotinoid as one of the active ingredients. Illustration courtesy of U.S. EPA

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