Thursday, May 28, 2015

Monarch Decline Blamed on Neonicotinoid

Department of Agriculture has released a study finding the neonicotinoid pesticide, clothianidin, is likely to be contributing to the drastic decline of Monarch butterflies in North America. The study was published in the journal "Science and Nature" This is the first research linking neonicotinoids to butterfly declines.  The class of systemic pesticides has already found to be killing honeybees.  Monarch numbers will be down by almost 30% as they begin their epic annual journey from their Mexican breeding grounds across North America.  Decade of declines in Monarch populations is tied to the destruction of  milkweed, the only plant on which the female will lay her eggs.  Habitat loss because of farming and development is pervasive, one estimate is 100 million acres that will no longer support Monarch butterflies.

The rise in the use of clothianidin and other neonicotinoids is mostly caused by the use of genetically modified soybean and corn seed that are treated with pesticides.  When this form of treatment was taken into account, pesticide use has risen dramatically since the mid-2000.  In fact one chemical company has marketed its popular pesticide in conjunction with genetically modified seed that can tolerate high levels of pesticide application.  Its marketing strategy has proved very effective in addicting farmers to pesticide use rather than more labor intensive methods of weed and insect control.  An entomologist at Penn State University said neonicotinoids are being overused as a crop 'insurance policy' rather than in response to an identified infestation.

Once numbering the billions, only 56.5 million Monarchs were counted in January at their Mexican refuge, the second lowest total ever.  NRDC filed suit in February to force the EPA to act on a petition to limit the use of another herbicide, glyphosate, that is destroying Monarch habitat.  As if these threats to the Monarch migration were not enough, another giant chemical company, Dow, is ready to release new pesticide, Enlist Duo, that will also destroy milkweed.