Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, April 12, 2019

Contact: Tara Cornelisse, (971) 717-6425,

New Study: Pesticide OK'd by EPA as Safer Alternative to Bee-killing Neonicotinoids Is Harmful to Bees

PORTLAND, Ore.— A new study has found that a pesticide approved by the Environmental Protection Agency as a safer alternative to harmful neonicotinoid products can disorient and kill bees.  

Flupyradifurone — marketed under the trade name Sivanto — was touted as posing fewer risks to honeybees and other pollinators than neonicotinoid pesticides.

But the study, published this week, found that nearly 3 of every 4 honeybees fed “field-realistic” doses of flupyradifurone and a commonly used fungicide died.

Exposure to the pesticide cocktail also increased the frequency of abnormal behaviors, such as reduced coordination, hyperactivity and apathy. The study’s authors documented poor coordination in bees that they defined as “falling or stumbling while walking, walking in circles, walking and flying with erratic and irregular movements, and bees that flap their wings while upside down.”

“It’s more than a little ironic that the pesticide the EPA claims is safe for bees is just another toxic poison for them,” said Tara Cornelisse, a senior scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity. “We know escalating pesticide use is one of the main reasons more than 40 percent of the world’s insect species are on a track to extinction. We need to stop pretending we’re going to spray our way out of this crisis by swapping one pesticide for another.”

The Center for Biological Diversity and other conservation groups sued the EPA in 2015 over its initial approval of flupyradifurone, challenging the agency’s refusal to take common-sense measures to protect endangered species from this new and controversial pesticide. That case is in its initial stages at the Washington, D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Late last year the maker of flupyradifurone, Bayer CropScience, requested that the EPA further expand the pesticide’s use to 300,000 acres of tobacco crops in states like Kentucky and North Carolina.

Flupyradifurone is a systemic pesticide with the same mode of action — and potential for harm — as neonicotinoid pesticides, a leading cause of pollinator declines. While the pesticide industry has touted flupyradifurone as a replacement for neonicotinoid pesticides, it poses many of the same risks to nontarget species as neonicotinoids.

Flupyradifurone is used on a range of crops such as citrus fruits, avocado trees, squash, peas and other crops attractive to pollinators.

“Now that Canada and the European Union have concluded that neonics are incredibly dangerous to pollinators and other species and are phasing them out, the chemical industry is scrambling to popularize new, equally dangerous products to replace them,” said Cornelisse. “But the replacements pose the same risks.”

Flupyradifurone impairs learning, memory and affinity for nectar rewards in honeybees. It’s also highly water-soluble and decreases the viability of freshwater mussel larvae. It also negatively impacts aquatic mayfly larvae survival at levels comparable to neonicotinoid pesticides like imidacloprid and clothianidin.

The new study was published in journal in Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences by researchers at the University of California, San Diego.

Rusty patched bumble bee

Rusty patched bumble bee photo by Tamara Smith, USFWS. Images are available for media use.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.4 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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