Bats, bees and amphibians are becoming more susceptible to diseases due to impaired immunity resulting from pesticide exposure. We humans are also being affected.
Waves of emerging wildlife diseases that are killing huge numbers of insect-eating animals could all be linked to the use of a new class of pesticides, according to a study recently published in the Journal of Environmental Immunology and Toxicology.
Neonicotinoids and related pesticides may be suppressing the immune system of bees, bats and even amphibians, making them much more susceptible to parasites, viruses and fungal infections, the researchers found after comparing geographical patterns of emerging diseases with the use of neonicotinoids.
Insects feeding on the pollen and nectar of crops treated with the pesticides absorb the chemicals and the poison is subsequently passed on to animals higher up the food chain that prey on those bugs, the scientists hypothesized, citing evidence of deviation from normal pathogen-host relationships.
If it sounds familiar, it should — DDT had a similar cascading ecosystem effect, and the impacts from the “new and improved” pesticides could be even more devastating and costly, with the loss of bats and bees hitting the agricultural sector especially hard.