Lethal and sublethal toxicity of neonicotinoid and butenolide insecticides to the mayfly, Hexagenia spp

Environ Pollut. 2018 Jul;238:63-75. doi: 10.1016/j.envpol.2018.03.004. Epub 2018 Mar 12.


Neonicotinoid insecticides are environmentally persistent and highly water-soluble, and thus are prone to leaching into surface waters where they may negatively affect non-target aquatic insects. Most of the research to date has focused on imidacloprid, and few data are available regarding the effects of other neonicotinoids or their proposed replacements (butenolide insecticides). The objective of this study was to assess the toxicity of six neonicotinoids (imidacloprid, thiamethoxam, acetamiprid, clothianidin, thiacloprid, and dinotefuran) and one butenolide (flupyradifurone) to Hexagenia spp. (mayfly larvae). Acute (96-h), water-only tests were conducted, and survival and behaviour (number of surviving mayflies inhabiting artificial burrows) were assessed. Acute sublethal tests were also conducted with imidacloprid, acetamiprid, and thiacloprid, and in addition to survival and behaviour, mobility (ability to burrow into sediment) and recovery (survival and growth following 21 d in clean sediment) were measured. Sublethal effects occurred at much lower concentrations than survival: 96-h LC50s ranged from 780 μg/L (acetamiprid) to >10,000 μg/L (dinotefuran), whereas 96-h EC50s ranged from 4.0 μg/L (acetamiprid) to 630 μg/L (thiamethoxam). Flupyradifurone was intermediate in toxicity, with a 96-h LC50 of 2000 μg/L and a 96-h EC50 of 81 μg/L. Behaviour and mobility were impaired significantly and to a similar degree in sublethal exposures to 10 μg/L imidacloprid, acetamiprid, and thiacloprid, and survival and growth following the recovery period were significantly lower in mayflies exposed to 10 μg/L acetamiprid and thiacloprid, respectively. A suite of effects on mayfly swimming behaviour/ability and respiration were also observed, but not quantified, following exposures to imidacloprid, acetamiprid, and thiacloprid at 1 μg/L and higher. Imidacloprid concentrations measured in North American surface waters have been found to meet or exceed those causing toxicity to Hexagenia, indicating that environmental concentrations may adversely affect Hexagenia and similarly sensitive non-target aquatic species.

Keywords: Aquatic toxicity; Mayfly; Neonicotinoid; Non-target species; Sublethal effects.

MeSH terms

  • 4-Butyrolactone / analogs & derivatives*
  • 4-Butyrolactone / toxicity
  • Animals
  • Ephemeroptera / drug effects*
  • Guanidines / toxicity
  • Imidazoles / toxicity
  • Insecticides / toxicity*
  • Larva / drug effects*
  • Neonicotinoids / toxicity*
  • Nitro Compounds / toxicity
  • Oxazines / toxicity
  • Pyridines / toxicity
  • Thiamethoxam
  • Thiazines / toxicity
  • Thiazoles / toxicity


  • Guanidines
  • Imidazoles
  • Insecticides
  • Neonicotinoids
  • Nitro Compounds
  • Oxazines
  • Pyridines
  • Thiazines
  • Thiazoles
  • dinotefuran
  • clothianidin
  • imidacloprid
  • acetamiprid
  • Thiamethoxam
  • flupyradifurone
  • butenolide
  • thiacloprid
  • 4-Butyrolactone