• In 20 years neonicotinoids have become the most widely used class of insecticides.
• Neonicotinoids have transformed the agrochemical landscape for pollinators.
• At field realistic concentrations, neonicotinoids cause a wide range of weakening effects on bees.
• A transition to pollinator-friendly alternatives to neonicotinoids is urgently needed.
In less than 20 years, neonicotinoids have become the most widely used class of insecticides with a global market share of more than 25%. For pollinators, this has transformed the agrochemical landscape. These chemicals mimic the acetylcholine neurotransmitter and are highly neurotoxic to insects. Their systemic mode of action inside plants means phloemic and xylemic transport that results in translocation to pollen and nectar. Their wide application, persistence in soil and water and potential for uptake by succeeding crops and wild plants make neonicotinoids bioavailable to pollinators at sublethal concentrations for most of the year. This results in the frequent presence of neonicotinoids in honeybee hives. At field realistic doses, neonicotinoids cause a wide range of adverse sublethal effects in honeybee and bumblebee colonies, affecting colony performance through impairment of foraging success, brood and larval development, memory and learning, damage to the central nervous system, susceptibility to diseases, hive hygiene etc. Neonicotinoids exhibit a toxicity that can be amplified by various other agrochemicals and they synergistically reinforce infectious agents such as Nosema ceranae which together can produce colony collapse. The limited available data suggest that they are likely to exhibit similar toxicity to virtually all other wild insect pollinators. The worldwide production of neonicotinoids is still increasing. Therefore a transition to pollinator-friendly alternatives to neonicotinoids is urgently needed for the sake of the sustainability of pollinator ecosystem services. Read full research