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The steep decline of the autumn darter -- a species of red dragonfly -- in Japan is linked to neonicotinoid insecticides

The autumn darter -- a species of red dragonfly -- is making it onto the "red list" of endangered species in many local municipalities in Japan. The data point to a possible link with the use of pesticides. According to the Nature Conservation Society of Japan (NACS-J), the autumn darter (Sympetrum frequens) has been confirmed as being on endangered species lists in the six prefectures of Osaka, Hyogo, Mie, Toyama, Nagasaki and Kagoshima. Their numbers have dropped dramatically from the late 1990s onward. According to Tetsuyuki Ueda, an animal ecology expert and professor emeritus at Ishikawa Prefectural University, autumn darters were confirmed to have emerged from their chrysalises at 80 percent of rice paddies in the prefecture in 1989, while the figure was down to 19 percent in 2009. Tests found that using neonicotinoid insecticides, which have become widespread since their emergence in the 1990s, led to a 70-percent drop in the autumn darter's eclosion rate than when such insecticides were not used.

UK Government authorised neonicotinoid pesticide use despite knowing they damage honeybee colonies

A UK Government study by their agency Fera has been published today. The study contains three key results, it shows:-
• A clear relationship across regions between imidacloprid use (the commonest neonicotinoid used during the period of the study) and overwintering honeybee colony losses. • Neonicotinoid seed treatments (mainly imidacloprid) on Oilseed rape did not produce a consistent yield benefit - positive in three years, negative in one and no overall effect.
• Neonicotinoid use reduced insecticide spray use in the autumn only if the initial use of the neonicotinoid was ignored, but appeared to increase insecticide sprays the following spring – net effect circa 0.75 more insecticide uses per hectare. Government has been aware of this statistical link between imidacloprid use and honeybee colony loss since early 2013 – the minutes of their own Advisory Committee on Pesticides of 29th January 2013 contain extensive discussion about a “prepublication” analysis that revealed that once regional differences had been accounted for 7-8% of honeybee colony loss was associated with imidacloprid use “there was a clear signal from imidacloprid use despite this ‘noise’, from other factors”.

Birds and butterflies suffering severe decline on farmland in UK

Butterflies including gatekeepers, large skippers, small coppers and small tortoiseshells are in severe decline on agricultural land, while breeding farmland bird populations hit their lowest recorded level in England in 2013, having more than halved since 1970. Breeding farmland birds and butterflies are declining in both the long and short term, while woodland birds and butterflies have also seen numbers fall in past decades. In 2013, breeding woodland birds in England reached their lowest recorded level, more than a quarter (28%) below 1970 levels. Butterfly populations have tumbled by almost a half (48%) since 1990.

Aerial insectivores are victims of widespread pesticide pollution - Canada's native bird population trends tell the story

Canada is home to billions of birds belonging to some 451 regularly occurring native species that raise their young or spend their non-breeding seasons in this vast and varied country. Increasingly, these birds face many threats here and elsewhere. On average, Canadian breeding bird populations have decreased 12% since 1970 when effective monitoring began for most species. Some groups, such as grassland birds, aerial insectivores and shorebirds, are showing major declines. Aerial insectivores—birds that catch insects in flight—are declining more steeply than any other group of birds. Some formerly very common species like the Barn Swallow and Chimney Swift have declined to less than a quarter of their 1970-level populations.

Farmland birds in Europe fall to lowest ever levels

Farmland bird populations both in Ireland and across Europe are at their lowest levels since records began, new figures from BirdWatch Ireland and BirdLife Europe reveal. The Pan-European Common Bird Monitoring Scheme has compiled population figures for 145 common and widespread bird species in 25 European countries between 1980 and 2009. Amongst those species covered, farmland birds are the most threatened group, with 20 out of 36 species in decline, and overall numbers at an all-time low, down by 48% since 1980. Some of the species that have declined the most over the last three decades across Europe include familiar farmland birds like Grey Partridge (–82%), Skylark (–46%), Linnet (–62%) and Corn Bunting (–66%). Ian Burfield, European Science and Data Manager for BirdLife Europe, said: “These shocking new figures confirm that farmland birds have halved in number across Europe since 1980. While the rate of decline may have slowed in recent years, it’s clear that attempts to halt the loss have been insufficient, and that massive efforts are needed to reverse the trend.”

National USGS study finds neonics in urban, rural streams

In the first national-scale investigation of neonicotinoids in streams, the U.S. Geological Survey found that in more than half of urban and agricultural streams sampled, the pesticide could be detected. The study, conducted from 2011 to 2014, is published in Environmental Chemistry. It spanned 24 states and Puerto Rico and was completed as part of ongoing USGS stream sampling. "In the study, neonicotinoids occurred throughout the year in urban streams while pulses of neonicotinoids were typical in agricultural streams during crop planting season," said USGS research chemist Michelle Hladik, the report's lead author. "The occurrence of low levels in streams throughout the year supports the need for future research on the potential impacts of neonicotinoids on aquatic life and terrestrial animals that rely on aquatic life," said USGS scientist Kathryn Kuivila, the research team leader. "These results will serve as an important baseline for that future work." The study is the first step in setting priorities for exposure experiments and identifying adverse effects to animals and wildlife near or in streams. Agriculture groups and others have been monitoring discussion about neonicotinoids' effects on non-target insects, especially pollinating honey bees and native bees.

Insight into the Binding Mode of Agonists of the Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptor

Starting from a homology model of the active site of the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) of sensitive pest insects, such as aphids (here, Myzus persicae), a hypothesis for the mode of binding was created for five small-molecule agonists of the nAChR, representing all four chemical subclasses of group 4 in the Insecticide Resistance Action Committee (IRAC) mode of action (MoA) classification scheme. Docking poses of these agonists in the active site of the homology model revealed two major interactions that are common across all investigated compounds: 1) a water-mediated hydrogen bridge towards the backbone of the b subunit of the receptor. 2) an interaction with a conserved cluster of aromatic residues from the a subunit. Interactions 1 and 2 result in nice spatial alignment of all five agonists within the active site. 3) The four synthetic agonists carry a head group that forms a hydrogen bridge towards a charged arginine residue from the b subunit, which is known to be crucial for high-affinity binding and pest sensitivity. Interaction 3 is not only absent for the vertebrate toxic plant derived alkaloid nicotine, but is replaced by a weak electrostatic repulsion.

A lovely bird species going going gone in Minnesota

Chestnut-collared Longspurs (Calcarius ornatus) have for decades been highly marginal nesters in Minnesota, although considered regular. At a time in the past, pre-agriculture, the species undoubtedly was numerous in our native grasslands. In more recent years the number of longspurs has been in steady decline. They have been regularly found in one small part of Clay County in northwestern Minnesota. A summer report said only one pair has been seen this year. We can expect that habitat change (what else?) soon will end the bird’s regular presence here. The nearest locations to see this beautiful bird will be in the western Dakotas.

Environmental Risk Assessment of Agrochemicals — A Critical Appraisal of Current Approaches

This chapter provides insights into the difficulties and challenges of performing risk evaluations of agrochemicals. It is a critical review of the current methodologies used in ecological risk assessment of these chemicals, not their risks to humans. After an introduction to the topic, the current framework for ecological risk assessment is outlined. Two types of assessments are typically carried out depending on the purpose: i) regulatory assessments for registration of a chemical product; and ii) ecological assessments, for the protection of both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, which are usually site-specific. Although the general framework is well established, the methodologies used in each of the steps of the assessment are fraught with a number of shortcomings. Notwithstanding the subjectivity implicit in the evaluation of risks, there is scepticism in scientific circles about the appropriateness of the current methodologies because, after so many years of evaluations, we are still incapable of foreseeing the negative consequences that some agrochemicals have in the environment. A critical appraisal of such methodologies is imperative if we are to improve the current assessment process and fix the problems we face today.

Germany bans import or planting of winter wheat coated with neonicotinoids

On Tuesday 21 July Christian Schmidt, Germany’s Federal Minister of Agriculture, signed an urgency decree coming into immediate effect forbidding all trade, import and sowing of winterwheat seed-coated with the nicotinoids Clothianidin, Imidacloprid und Thiamethoxam. Minister Schmidt argumented the decision as necessary to prevent massive death of honey bees saying that “ with this decision honey bees will be protected from dust contaminated with insecticides. This serves the bees as an important part of nature as well as the farmers who are dependent on bees for the pollinisation of their plants.” The attached article by Klaus Wenzel, published in the Journal Entomologische Zeitschrift Heft 2-2015 in May, has been instrumental in bringing the German authorities to this decision.

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