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Neonicotinoids and Native Pollinators

Because insecticides containing “neonicotinoids” can be harmful to bees, butterflies and other insect pollinators (those animals that 80 percent of the world’s flowering plants need to produce seeds and fruits) Forest Preserve District of DuPage County employees do not apply products containing neonicotinoids in natural areas or at its golf courses.

Neonicotinoids, also known as “neonics,” have been used over the past 25 years in agricultural and other commercial applications as well as on residential lawns and gardens. Unlike “contact” insecticides, which stay on the surface of a plant, neonics are “systemic.” Plants absorb and transport them throughout the roots, stems, leaves, flowers, seeds and pollen. Neonics can remain in a plant for an entire growing season and in the soil even longer.

When grubs and beetles chew on roots and leaves or aphids suck the sap of treated plants, they digest the toxic ingredients and die. Unfortunately, neonicotinoids also harm insects such as bees and butterflies that come in contact with nectar or pollen from these plants.

Seven active ingredients classified as neonicotinoids are registered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: imidacloprid (the most common), clothianidin, thiamethoxam, acetamiprid, dinotefuran, nitenpyram and thiacloprid. They’re in products sold under a variety of names, some for use on large farms; others, in small backyards. Agricultural suppliers and garden centers may even sell seeds or plants pretreated with neonics. A product can contain one of these ingredients, though, and not have the term “neonicotinoid” on its label. As a result, there’s concern that people who are not trained pesticide applicators or are not aware these ingredients can harm pollinators may overuse them. Click here for a list of products containing neonicotinoids from the Xerces Society.

For the Forest Preserve District, its effort to limit its use of neonics is the latest in its support of native pollinators and its goal to become a regional leader in the conservation and protection of imperiled species.

The DuPage Monarch Project — including the River Prairie Group of the Sierra Club, The Conservation FoundationWild Ones of Greater DuPage and the District — provides education about monarchs and works to increase suitable monarch habitat throughout DuPage County. 

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