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IT’S COMPLICATED

Dr Don Ewart offers his thoughts on the use of thiamethoxam and suggests pest managers take note of the findings of a recent research study. 

An unpretentious bloke called Barry Commoner once got into a lot of trouble for saying that ‘Everything’s connected to everything else’. It was one of his four laws of ecology, the other three were, ‘There’s no such thing as a free lunch’,‘Nature knows best’ and ‘Everything must go somewhere’. You can see why this upset people. Of course, in hindsight it is now clear that he was, well, spot on. The subtext of everything being connected is that you can’t ever just change one thing. Other things get pushed around by any change. This is true of law, markets, engine tuning, sports coaching and pest management.

Today’s example is an active known as thiamethoxam. Thiamethoxam is widely used in agriculture, turf and household products. You may know it as Optigard for ants. The bee people pay close attention to it in Europe, though the last talk I heard on it, at the Union for the Study of Social Insects conference in Cairns last July, suggested that lab studies overstated the field risk. Watch this space.

Okay, back to the main story. There’s a rather heavy scientific paper out that looked at the off-target effects of thiamethoxam in crops. The Pennsylvania State University researchers found that slugs picked up the thiamethoxam in doses sufficient to mess up their beetle predators, so that the growing slug population then caused an unexpected amount of crop damage. You can read the paper online for free.

Now I’m not suggesting that urban pest managers will have exploding slug populations, but the study does serve as a good reminder that unexpected things can happen. The nearest example I can think of is when old rat bait grain in the roof causes little outbreaks of grain pests inside the house. Be careful out there.

Dr Don Ewart

Dr Don Ewart is a termite scientist who undertakes consulting, contract research and teaches at NMIT. Dr Don chairs the termite Standard committee and is a co-author of the Code of Practice for Prior to Purchase Timber Pest Inspection. Dr Don can be found at Dr Don’s Termite Pages.

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