Quantifying neonicotinoid insecticide residues in milkweed and other forbs sampled from prairie strips established in maize and soybean fields

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment (2021)


butterflies, clothianidin, imidacloprid, monarchs, Pollinators, thiamethoxam


Adding habitat within agricultural ecosystems is necessary to reverse declines in pollinator abundance and diversity. Understanding pesticide exposure to pollinator habitat near crop fields is necessary to support risk assessments. Neonicotinoids applied to maize and soybean seeds can be transported from crop fields to adjacent habitat through dust drift during planting and/or through overland runoff or subsurface flow following planting. Pollinators, especially bees (e.g. Apidae) and monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus), could be exposed to neonicotinoids through ingestion of contaminated plant material (e.g. milkweed leaves). Neonicotinoids have been detected in pollinator-attractive habitats near crop fields; however, the magnitude and seasonal variation of the concentration of these insecticides has not been determined. We quantified concentrations of clothianidinthiamethoxam, and imidacloprid in soil and forb leaf tissue, including milkweed (Asclepias spp.) located within reconstructed prairies (3–4 years post-establishment) within or adjacent to maize or soybean fields. Samples taken from April through August in 2017 and 2018 were analyzed with liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry; 100% of soil, 80% of vegetation from blooming forbs, and 80% of milkweed leaf tissue samples had at least one neonicotinoid present above the method detection limit (0.07–0.9 ng g-1). The maximum concentrations detected in 2017 or 2018 of clothianidin, thiamethoxam, and imidacloprid in milkweed leaf tissue samples were 6.6, 12.9, and 2.8 ng g-1, respectively. These values are 10 to 130-fold lower than the chronic LC10 values for monarch larvae, indicating it is unlikely that this route of neonicotinoid exposure will cause adverse effects to monarch larvae.