Are neonicotinoids killing birds (part 2)



This article will make more sense if you read my previous blog first!


In a recent online article NFU’s Dr Chris Hartfield is quoted as saying:

“Dave Goulson’s theories about neonicotinoids poisoning birds are simply that – theories – and are not backed up by evidence from real life”, he added. In the UK, poisoning of all animals is investigated by the Wildlife Incident Investigation Scheme. If seed-eating farmland birds were being poisoned as a result of eating neonicotinoid treated seed, you would rightly expect this scheme to be finding these incidents. There are no incidents of bird poisoning resulting from the use of neonicotinoids over the last ten years. Promoting theories without the evidence to back them up is only going to damage the cause of pollinators and wildlife, and damage the public perception of science in general.

My detailed response to this was posted on 7 March. On that date I also contacted the wildlife incident unit. I asked them to tell me what pesticides they would test a dead bird for. The answer, kindly provided by David G Brown, is below:

“This can be quite specific depending on the evidence available but in general terms analysis will look for pesticide groups such as carbamates, organophosphates and rodenticides in addition to compounds such as chloralose and metaldehyde (slug pellets), the former a frequently abused product historically, the latter more commonly confirmed in ‘misuse’ incidents.”

So, there are no incidents of bird poisoning resulting from neonic use because dead birds aren’t normally tested for neonics in the UK. The apparent anomaly between France, where many dead birds contain neonics, and the UK, where no such incidents have been detected, is thus rather easily explained.  

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