Translocation of neonicotinoid insecticides from coated seeds to seedling guttation drops: a novel way of intoxication for bees
The death of honey bees, Apis mellifera L., and the consequent colony collapse disorder causes major losses in agriculture and plant pollination worldwide. The phenomenon showed increasing rates in the past years, although its causes are still awaiting a clear answer. Although neonicotinoid systemic insecticides used for seed coating of agricultural crops were suspected as possible reason, studies so far have not shown the existence of unquestionable sources capable of delivering directly intoxicating doses in the fields. Guttation is a natural plant phenomenon causing the excretion of xylem fluid at leaf margins. Here, we show that leaf guttation drops of all the corn plants germinated from neonicotinoid-coated seeds contained amounts of insecticide constantly higher than 10 mg/l, with maxima up to 100 mg/l for thiamethoxam and clothianidin, and up to 200 mg/l for imidacloprid. The concentration of neonicotinoids in guttation drops can be near those of active ingredients commonly applied in field sprays for pest control, or even higher. When bees consume guttation drops, collected from plants grown from neonicotinoid-coated seeds, they encounter death within few minutes.
Girolami V, Mazzon L, Squartini A, Mori N, Marzaro M, Di Bernardo A, Greatti M, Giorio C, Tapparo A. J Econ Entomol. 2009 Oct;102(5):1808-15.