Bigger than Bees: How Neonics Contaminate Water, Threaten Ecosystems, and Cause Human Health Concerns in New York

Report
January 21, 2020

Neonics are neurotoxic insecticides—pesticides that kill insects by permanently binding to, overstimulating, and ultimately destroying their nerve cells. Unlike older, conventional insecticides, neonics are “systemic,” designed to be absorbed by plant tissues in order to make the plant itself—including its nectar, pollen, and fruit—toxic.

Today, neonics are the most widely used insecticides in the United States, contaminating soil and water across the country and building up in areas of year-after-year use. This holds true for New York State, where neonic use has soared in recent decades.

Neonic use has been linked to a dramatic decline in insects—a trend sometimes called the “insect apocalypse"—including plummeting bee and butterfly populations. This disrupts entire ecosystems, harming birds, fish, and other wildlife. Neonics also contaminate and linger in our water supply and may harm human health.

While many countries have taken steps to ban neonics, protections in the United States have stalled. In the face of federal inaction, New York State must act to protect human health, our wildlife, and water systems from these toxic chemicals.