Are Neonicotinoids Bad for Bees? (Answered)

by Alex Kountry
Updated on

Hey there. You might be wondering if neonicotinoids are bad for bees.

We would explain what neonicotinoids are and how they affect bees so you could understand why pollinating bees around your plants keep dying or having trouble pollinating your plants.

Neonicotinoids are toxic for bees as it contains harmful chemicals which makes it very difficult for bees to pollinate plants and flowers. This has sub-lethal effects on the foraging of bees and the performance of their colonies.

To start, we would first help you understand what neonicotinoids are. And to end, we would show you ways you could grow your plants with the aid of bees as pollinators.

What are Neonicotinoids?

Are Neonicotinoids Bad for Bees

Neonicotinoids refer to a group of insecticides that are customarily used on urban landscapes and farms.

Your plants absorb this insecticide, and the neonicotinoids could be available in the nectar and pollen of your plant. This makes the neonicotinoids highly toxic to bees.

About four years ago, the impact these neonicotinoids had on bees was uncertain.

Since then, a lot of research was done, which showed clearly how these neonicotinoids changed the behaviors of bees and killed them.

In the United States, neonicotinoids are one of the fastest-growing and most used sets of insecticides. These neonicotinoids are used for different forms of agriculture.

They are used for lovely plants at home gardens and used in numerous farms to eliminate pests and nutrient suckling insects.

Related: Here is an article I wrote on are dahlia’s good for bees?

Why are neonicotinoids bad for bees?

These neonicotinoids are harmful to bees because they have systemic chemicals.

If you spray your plants with insecticides with neonicotinoids, your plant absorbs them and transfers them to its vascular system.

This ends up making your plant itself highly toxic to insects like bees, butterflies, and other pollinating insect.

The rate at which this type of insecticide affects such insects like bees is a high reason you should think twice about making use of insecticides that have neonicotinoids as one of their ingredients.

How dangerous are neonicotinoids to bees?

The high impact of this type of insecticide on insects that pollinates flowers and bees involves things you would not like for the pollination of your plants.

If you have flowers and plants which need to get pollinated by bees, you would be unhappy if you realize that these insecticides keep killing your plant pollinators.

There are chemicals from this insecticide that get absorbed into your plants. Any pollinator that feeds on your plant that you’ve sprayed with this insecticide would go through the pain and might die.

The insecticide is quite toxic to bees; hence it makes it very bad for such pollinators.

How do neonicotinoids affect bees?

Being an insecticide that is popularly used on plants, these neonicotinoids increase the death rate of bees.

Insecticides with neonicotinoids have sub-lethal effects on the foraging of bees and the performance of their colonies.

An impact neonicotinoid has on bees is to affect their ability to associate and pollinate with flowers negatively.

Do neonicotinoids wear off over time?

After your plants absorb neonicotinoids, they guard your plant by protecting it from sap-sucking and chewing insects. However, this is good because your plants are guarded against insects that come with such nutrients.

This is bad because it prevents other helpful insects like bees and butterflies from cross-pollinating your plants with other flowers around.

For bees, for example, whenever bees try cross-pollinating your plants that neonicotinoids have sprayed, they either get killed or lose some of their essential functions.

This way, it is difficult for them to keep pollinating your plants.

These neonicotinoids never wear out over time.

Which type of Bees do Neonicotinoids Affect?

It is becoming known publicly that neonicotinoids significantly affect different types of bees.

These bees include bumblebees and honey bees.

Do neonicotinoids have an impact on humans like it affects bees?

There is evidence stating that these neonicotinoids affect humans due to the type of chemicals in these insecticides.

There is present evidence which states that neonicotinoids are making their way into our water and food supply.

Some studies from the United States Geological Survey realized that these neonicotinoids were widespread contaminants of groundwater and surface drinking water sources.

This study checked out about nine different rivers, which were cross-checked in the Midwest. That was a place where these neonicotinoids were highly used.

The study realized that clothianidin from around three-quarters of sites was monitored from around one-half and imidacloprid in around one-quarter.

Neonicotinoids were available in vegetables and fruits as tested by the United States department of agriculture.

This is enough evidence that due to the systemic nature of neonicotinoids, they cannot be washed off these food’s surface after impact.

Do Neonicotinoids Affect both people and bees?

Neonicotinoids being present in water and food raises various concerns about the potential health impact of this food and water.

Various studies from animals have not reassured us humans to feel safe or better because of the presence of neonicotinoids in water and food.

Which part of Bees do Neonicotinoids Affect?

These neonicotinoids pesticides interfere with the nerve function and brain structure of bees.

These neonicotinoid insecticides are created, designed, and developed to attack the nervous system of insects.

These are how effective they are on these bees, butterflies, and all other pollinating insects.

How do neonicotinoids kill bees?

Neonicotinoids attack bees using the following methods

  • Entering the receptors of bees to disrupt their behaviors
  • Binds the acetylcholine receptors to stop them from pollination
  • Degrades the bees’ receptors, which feel toxic and kill the bee within some days or hours.

How do neonicotinoids affect humans?

For humans, neonicotinoids affect our acetylcholine receptor, which has various functions.

The functions neonicotinoids disrupt include affecting our brain architecture and impacting the way we pay attention and learn.

As a result of science which has provided a lot of evidence to us which shows these neonicotinoids have a high amount of health risk to people, these are coupled with contamination with food and waterways.

This ends up raising alarms beyond the already present risk to bees. Several studies are needed on the risks these neonicotinoids have on bees and humans.

The use of these neonicotinoids publicly in places like farms where food is grown for usage nationwide could cause many problems to humans who might consume this food.

How to stop the negative impact of neonicotinoids on bees

One of the only ways to change this is to use an insecticide that doesn’t have neonicotinoids as an ingredient or a different type of insecticide altogether.

This way, you would have plants that get cross-pollinated by insects like bees and butterflies without being afraid of them dying or losing control of their behavior because of the insecticide you use.


Neonicotinoids have the potential to kill bees because they are toxic to these bees.

They are pretty bad for bees. Being a type of insecticide that’s used in urban landscapes and farms, neonicotinoids are absorbed by your plants, and they are always present on nectar and pollen.

Whenever bees try to pollinate your plants, they end up poisoning these bees, affecting their receptors and nerves, causing a change in their behaviors and killing them.

These neonicotinoids are present on the nectar of your plants as a result of their systemic nature.

These neonicotinoids get taken up by the leaves and the roots, and they get translocated to every part of your plant.

This makes all your plants that have been treated using this type of insecticide highly toxic to insects.

Impacts that are sub-lethal and lethal on other pollinating insects would happen due to the presence of this type of insecticide on your plant.

To avoid this, use insecticides that aren’t neonicotinoids that don’t negatively affect cross pollinators of your plant.

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About the author

Alex Kountry

Alex Kountry is the founder of HayFarmGuy and has been a backyard farmer for over 10 years. Since then he has decided to write helpful articles that will help you become a better backyard farmer and know what to do. He also loves to play tennis and read books


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