Neonicotinoid contamination in conservation areas affects bees more sharply than beetles

Jonathan Tetlie, Alexandra Harmon-Threatt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The neurotoxic insecticide class of neonicotinoids has become one of the most widely used groups of pesticides globally. Their long half-lives and high water solubility increase their potential to linger and affect numerous organisms long after application. A prominent concern associated with residual contamination is the negative impact that neonicotinoids can have on beneficial arthropods such as bees and certain groups of beetles. Many studies have looked at the effects neonicotinoids have on arthropod communities in lab settings; however, comparatively few studies have looked at these groups in neonicotinoid-contaminated restored prairie habitats. These habitats are often restored from or located near agriculture and are almost ubiquitously contaminated with neonicotinoids. Our one-year manipulated field study compared native bee nesting rates and beetle community assemblages between paired clothianidin-contaminated and non-contaminated restored prairie plots. Native bee nesting probability and nesting abundance increased by 46% and 172%, respectively, in sites contaminated with clothianidin. Conversely, we observed no significant differences in beetle family assemblages, abundance, or richness between clothianidin-contaminated and control sites. These results suggest that neonicotinoid contamination of natural habitats can have numerous environmental consequences for arthropods and that these effects are not always consistent between taxa. Understanding how neonicotinoid contamination affects beneficial groups such as bees and arthropod community assemblages is crucial for characterizing the risks these chemicals pose to ecologically imperative taxa.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1347526
JournalFrontiers in Ecology and Evolution
StatePublished - 2024


  • agricultural contamination
  • beetle feeding guilds
  • clothianidin
  • ground-nesting bees
  • restored prairie

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology


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