Should we Simply Replace Neonicotinoids with Equally Bee-Toxic Products? The Case of Flupyradifurone
Updated: Apr 12, 2019
Expert beekeepers, along with scientists and political decision-makers, have all demanded better protection for our bees and pollinators. Giant steps have already been taken, as in the EU’s historic decision to ban neonicotinoids in 2018. However, it would be naive to think that one pesticide ban alone could solve the range of environmental issues that threaten our pollinators. Currently, there are new insecticides on the market which pose risks to bees that we simply cannot ignore, even though they are currently not as widely used as neonicotinoids. This is the case with flupyradifurone, the active substance of Bayer's Sivanto®, which is allegedly 'safe for bees'; though it might not live up to the marketing hype.
The European Union authorised flupyradifurone as a crop insecticide in 2015, at the same time sulfoxaflor was licensed (see more). But the alleged 'safety' of these pesticides for bees is thrown into doubt by new scientific studies.
These question whether the Risk Assessment standards for these pesticide are valid, since the tests completely ignore their increased toxicity for bees when combined with commonly used fungicides.
This re-evaluation is crucial, since Sivanto is intended for use on such "a wide range of crops such as citrus, pome and stone fruits, tree nuts, grapes, coffee, cocoa, fruiting and leafy vegetables (indoor and outdoor), brassica vegetables, and hops, but also on tuber vegetables and broad acre crops such as cotton and soybean. The use of the product on ornamentals and flower bulbsis also being considered, as well as in date palm for the control of the red palm weevil" .
A recent study published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society, assessed the risk flupyradifurone (marketed under the name Sivanto) poses to bees, when combined with the commonly used fungicide, propiconazole.
The results were clear; the combined toxicity of these pesticides created a "synergistic effect (that) significantly reduced survival of bees in the hive" .
But poisonous effects of flupyradifurone do not end with the impact on bees in the hive. The study found that the poison had more impact on forager bees than bees inside the hive and also caused abnormal behaviour in the colony.
During an interview with journal Newsweek, author of the study S. Tosi mentioned that:
"although the product label prohibits flupyradifurone from being mixed in an application tank with certain fungicides including PRO, bees can be simultaneously exposed to FPF and other chemicals—forming pesticide “cocktails”—that are commonly used in adjacent crops or that persist over time. FPF and PRO are used on the same crops and ornamentals, including fruits, oilseeds and cereals." 
If we want to improve environmental safety for our bees we cannot simply replace the old poison with a new insecticide, which is equally deadly for bees.
On this point, renowned biologist Dave Goulson said in an interview last year:
"At what point are we going to think 'Hang on a minute. Maybe we should be looking for another solution to crop protection, which is not a pesticide, that is not a chemical that kills all insects'. That seems to me long overdue".
The case of Flupyradifurone reminds us that the poisonous logic of the pesticide industry is unsustainable. Creating more and more deadly insecticides does not solve any problems in agriculture; instead, we should be working to develop better and safer alternatives to the blanket use of lethal insecticides.