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Environ Sci Technol. 2018 Apr 3;52(7):3990-3996. doi: 10.1021/acs.est.8b00609. Epub 2018 Mar 19.

Effects of Field-Relevant Concentrations of Clothianidin on Larval Development of the Butterfly Polyommatus icarus (Lepidoptera, Lycaenidae).

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School of Life Sciences, John Maynard Smith Building , The University of Sussex , Falmer , East Sussex BN1 9QG , U.K.


Arable field margins are often sown with wildflowers to encourage pollinators and other beneficial or desirable insects such as bees and butterflies. Concern has been raised that these margins may be contaminated with systemic pesticides such as neonicotinoids used on the adjacent crop, and that this may negatively impact beneficial insects. The use of neonicotinoids has been linked to butterfly declines, and species such as the common blue butterfly ( Polyommatus icarus) that feed upon legumes commonly sown in arable field margins, may be exposed to such toxins. Here, we demonstrate that the larval food plants of P. icarus growing in an arable field margin adjacent to a wheat crop treated with the neonicotinoid clothianidin not only contain the pesticide at concentrations comparable to and sometimes higher than those found in foliage of treated crops (range 0.2-48 ppb) but also remain detectable at these levels for up to 21 months after sowing of the crop. Overall, our study demonstrates that nontarget herbivorous organisms in arable field margins are likely to be chronically exposed to neonicotinoids. Under laboratory conditions, exposure to clothianidin at 15 ppb (a field-realistic dose) or above reduced larval growth for the first 9 days of the experiment. Although there was evidence of clothianidin inducing mortality in larvae, with highest survival in control groups, the dose-response relationship was unclear. Our study suggests that larvae of this butterfly exhibit some deleterious sublethal and sometimes lethal impacts of exposure to clothianidin, but many larvae survive to adulthood even when exposed to high doses.


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