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J Environ Monit. 2011 Jun;13(6):1564-8. doi: 10.1039/c1em10085h. Epub 2011 Apr 21.

Rapid analysis of neonicotinoid insecticides in guttation drops of corn seedlings obtained from coated seeds.

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Università degli Studi di Padova, Dipartimento di Scienze Chimiche, via Marzolo 1, 35131 Padova, Italy.


Regarding the hypothesis that neonicotinoid insecticides used for seed coating of agricultural crops - mainly corn, sunflower and seed rape - are related to the extensive death of honey bees, the phenomenon of corn seedling guttation has been recently considered as a possible route of exposure of bees to these systemic insecticides. In the present study, guttation drops of corn plants obtained from commercial seeds coated with thiamethoxam, clothianidin, imidacloprid and fipronil have been analyzed by an optimized fast UHPLC-DAD procedure showing excellent detection limits and accuracy, both adequate for the purpose. The young plants grown both in pots - in greenhouse - and in open field from coated seeds, produced guttation solutions containing high levels of the neonicotinoid insecticides (up to 346 mg L(-1) for imidacloprid, 102 mg L(-1) for clothianidin and 146 mg L(-1) for thiamethoxam). These concentration levels may represent lethal doses for bees that use guttation drops as a source of water. The neonicotinoid concentrations in guttation drops progressively decrease during the first 10-15 days after the emergence of the plant from the soil. Otherwise fipronil, which is a non-systemic phenylpyrazole insecticide, was never detected into guttation drops. Current results confirm that the physiological fluids of the corn plant can effectively transfer neonicotinoid insecticides from the seed onto the surface of the leaves, where guttation drops may expose bees and other insects to elevated doses of neurotoxic insecticides.

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