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Imidacloprid: A brief introduction

Imidacloprid: A brief introduction

First synthesised in 1985, Imidacloprid is a chloro-nicotintyle compound, a synthetic insecticide chemically related to nicotine, which is naturally found and toxic to insects. Imidacloprid has wide usage within the Pest Control Sector for the control of sucking insects, soil based insects and fleas on pets.

How does Imidacloprid work?

Imidacloprid works differently too many other insecticides, as the mode of action is based upon interferences of the transmission of impulses in the nerve system. Imidacloprid disrupts the nerves ability to send normal signals, shutting down the way the nervous system works. Death usually occurs within 24-48 hours depending upon the mode of application.

Risk to humans?

Imidacloprid is far more toxic to insects and other invertebrates than it is to mammals and birds, this is due to the fact that it binds better to the receptors of insect nerve cells. Imidacloprid does not go through skin easily, but can cross the lining of the stomach particularly the intestine when eaten.

Despite the risk, tests with rats fed on Imidacloprid showed that 90% of the dose was excreted within 24 hours. Toxicologists have suggested that based upon its mechanism of action, the worst case scenario involving poisoning with Imidacloprid in humans can lead to muscle weakness, cramps and fatigue.

Use in Agriculture?

Imidacloprid is known as a systemic insecticide, it can be taken up by plants from the soil or through leaves and then spread throughout the plants steams, leaves, fruit and flowers. Insects which then chew or suck on the treated plant digest the Imidacloprid leading to death.

Behaviour in water?

Imidacloprid is stable in sterile water in the dark, however it decomposes quickly under the influence of light. The biotic processes under the influence of microbes present in natural water and its sediments present another mechanism for the elimination of Imidacloprid. As such should Imidacloprid enter water bodies, due to spray drift or runoff from treated fields after rainfall, it has been shown that no unacceptable harmful effects occur, due to the elimination caused in water from photolytic reactions and by microbial activity.

Behaviour in air?

A principal feature of Imidacloprids behaviour in air is its non-volatility. It’s extremely low vapour pressure with a relatively high water solubility precludes direct evaporation or evaporation driven by evaporating water from soil or plant surfaces. Additional to the above, the chemical life-time of Imidacloprid in the atmosphere is extremely short, negating air transport of Imidacloprid over large distances.


Imidacloprid is currently the most widely used insecticide in the world, with its use spanning agriculture, gardens, domestic pets, residential properties, commercial units, the protection of trees and in the preservative treatment for many lumber products. With its non-volatility and quick decomposition times when present in areas where many chemicals can create high environmental risks, its low toxicity to mammals and its versatility and rapid action when employed against many insect pests, make Imidacloprid one of the markets top insecticides.