Neonicotinoids from coated seeds toxic for honeydew-feeding biological control agents

Miguel Calvo-Agudo*, Jonathan Dregni, Joel González-Cabrera, Marcel Dicke, George E. Heimpel, Alejandro Tena

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Seed coating (‘seed treatment’) is the leading delivery method of neonicotinoid insecticides in major crops such as soybean, wheat, cotton and maize. However, this prophylactic use of neonicotinoids is widely discussed from the standpoint of environmental costs. Growing soybean plants from neonicotinoid-coated seeds in field, we demonstrate that soybean aphids (Aphis glycines) survived the treatment, and excreted honeydew containing neonicotinoids. Biochemical analyses demonstrated that honeydew excreted by the soybean aphid contained substantial concentrations of neonicotinoids even one month after sowing of the crop. Consuming this honeydew reduced the longevity of two biological control agents of the soybean aphid, the predatory midge Aphidoletes aphidimyza and the parasitic wasp Aphelinus certus. These results have important environmental and economic implications because honeydew is the main carbohydrate source for many beneficial insects in agricultural landscapes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number117813
JournalEnvironmental Pollution
Publication statusPublished - 15 Nov 2021


  • Parasitic wasp
  • Predatory midge
  • Seed coating
  • Soybean aphid
  • Thiamethoxam


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