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  • InChI=1S/C8H10ClN5O3S/c1-12-4-17-5-13(8(12)11-14(15)16)3-6-2-10-7(9)18-6/h2H,3-5H2,1H3/b11-8- checkY
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Thiamethoxam is a systemic insecticide in the class of neonicotinoids. It has a broad spectrum of activity against many types of insects. Thiamethoxam can be used as a seed dresser.


Thiamethoxam was developed by Ciba-Geigy (now Syngenta) in 1991[3] and launched in 1998;[4] a patent dispute arose with Bayer which already had patents covering other neonicotinoids including imidacloprid. In 2002 the dispute was settled, with Syngenta paying Bayer $120 million in exchange for worldwide rights to thiamethoxam.[5][6][non-primary source needed]

Mechanisms of action[edit]

Thiamethoxam is a broad-spectrum, systemic insecticide, which means it is absorbed quickly by plants and transported to all of its parts, including pollen, where it acts to deter insect feeding.[citation needed] An insect can absorb it in its stomach after feeding, or through direct contact, including through its tracheal system. The compound gets in the way of information transfer between nerve cells by interfering with nicotinic acetylcholine receptors in the central nervous system, and eventually paralyzes the muscles of the insects.[7]: 17 

Syngenta asserts that thiamethoxam improves plant vigor by triggering physiological reactions within the plant, which induce the expression of specific "functional proteins" involved in various stress defense mechanisms of the plant allowing it to better cope under tough growing conditions, such as "drought and heat stress leading to protein degradation, low pH, high soil salinity, free radicals from UV radiation, toxic levels of aluminum, wounding from pests, wind, hail, etc, virus attack".[8]: 16 


The selective toxicity of neonicotinoids like thiamethoxam for insects versus mammals is due to the higher sensitivity of insects' acetylcholine receptors.[9]

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the U.N. assessed thiamethoxam as "moderately hazardous to humans (WHO class III)", because it is harmful if swallowed. It found it to be no skin or eye irritant, and not mutagenic in any in vitro and in vivo toxicology tests.[7]: 20 

FAO described thiamethoxam as non-toxic to fish, daphnia and algae, mildly toxic for birds, highly toxic to midges and acutely toxic for bees.[7]: 20  The Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) classification is: "Harmful if swallowed. Very toxic to aquatic life with long lasting effects".[7]: 20 

Sublethal doses of thiamethoxam metabolite clothianidin (0.05–2 ng/bee) have been known to cause reduced foraging activity since at least 1999, but this was quantified in 2012 by RFID tagged honeybees.[10] Doses of equal or more than 0.5 ng/bee caused longer foraging flights.[10]


United States[edit]

Thiamethoxam is approved for use in the US as an antimicrobial pesticide wood preservative and as a pesticide; it was first approved in 1999.[11]: 4 & 14  As of 2014, it is approved for use in a wide range of crops.[12]

On September 5, 2014 Syngenta petitioned the EPA to increase the legal tolerance for thiamethoxam residue in numerous crops.[13] It wants to use thiamethoxam as a leaf spray, rather than just a seed treatment, to treat late to midseason insect pests.[14]

Neonicotinoids banned by the European Union[edit]

In 2012, several peer reviewed independent studies were published showing that several neonicotinoids had previously undetected routes of exposure affecting bees including through dust, pollen, and nectar; that sub-nanogram toxicity resulted in failure to return to the hive without immediate lethality, the primary symptom of colony collapse disorder; and showing environmental persistence in agricultural irrigation channels and soil. However, not all earlier studies carried out before 2014 have found significant effects.[15] These reports prompted a formal peer review by the European Food Safety Authority, which stated in January 2013 that neonicotinoids pose an unacceptably high risk to bees, and that the industry-sponsored science upon which regulatory agencies' claims of safety have relied on may be flawed and contain several data gaps not previously considered.[16] In April 2013, the European Union voted for a two-year restriction on neonicotinoid insecticides. The ban restricts the use of imidacloprid, clothianidin, and thiamethoxam on crops that attract bees.[17]

In February 2018, the European Food Safety Authority published a new report indicating that neonicotinoids pose a serious danger to both honey bees and wild bees.[18] In April 2018, the member states of the European Union decided to ban the three main neonicotinoids (clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam) for all outdoor uses.[19]

Other countries[edit]

Thiamethoxam is approved for a wide range of agricultural, viticultural(vineyard), and horticultural uses.[7]: 17 

Emergency use[edit]

In January 2021 the UK allowed this pesticide to be used to save sugar beet plants in danger of damage from beet yellows virus which is transmitted by aphids.[20] However due to lower levels of this disease than was expected, it was announced in March 2021 that the conditions for emergency use had not been met.


  1. ^ Thiamethoxam at Sigma-Aldrich (Merck), accessed 12 June 2019
  2. ^ MSDS for Thiamethoxam
  3. ^ Peter Maienfisch; Max Angst; Franz Brandl; et al. (October 2001). "Chemistry and biology of thiamethoxam: a second generation neonicotinoid". Pest Management Science. 57 (10): 906–913. doi:10.1002/ps.365. PMID 11695183.
  4. ^ Peter Maienfisch; Hanspeter Huerlimann; Alfred Rindlisbacher; et al. (February 2001). "The discovery of thiamethoxam: a second-generation neonicotinoid". Pest Management Science. 57 (2): 165–176. doi:10.1002/1526-4998(200102)57:2<165::AID-PS289>3.0.CO;2-G. PMID 11455647.
  5. ^ Syngenta AG has reached an agreement to pay Bayer AG $120 million to settle a dispute over neonicotinoid chemistry used in insecticides, February 1, 2002
  6. ^ Bayer (11 January 2002). "Syngenta and Bayer reach agreement on patent disputes". Retrieved 15 April 2012.
  7. ^ a b c d e "FAO Specifications and Evaluations for Agricultural Pesticides: Thiamethoxam" (PDF). 21 June 2000.
  8. ^ Syngenta (2006). "Thiamethoxam Vigor Effect" (PDF). Retrieved 2011-10-11.
  9. ^ Patrick H Rose (2012). "6.3.2.Selective Toxicity of Nicotine and Neonicotinoids". In Marrs, Timothy C. (ed.). Mammalian Toxicology of Insecticides. The Royal Society of Chemistry. p. 186. ISBN 978-1849731911.
  10. ^ a b Christof W. Schneider; Jürgen Tautz; Bernd Grünewald; Stefan Fuchs (11 January 2012). "RFID Tracking of Sublethal Effects of Two Neonicotinoid Insecticides on the Foraging Behavior of Apis mellifera". PLOS ONE. 7 (1): e30023. Bibcode:2012PLoSO...730023S. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0030023. PMC 3256199. PMID 22253863.
  11. ^ EPA Dec 21, 2011 Thiamethoxam Summary Document Registration Review Initial Docket Entire docket is available here
  12. ^ §180.565 Thiamethoxam; tolerances for residues.
  13. ^ Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (5 September 2014). "Receipt of Several Pesticide Petitions Filed for Residues of Pesticide Chemicals in or on Various Commodities" (PDF). Federal Register. 79 (172): 53009–530013. Retrieved 13 September 2014.
  14. ^ Britt E. Erickson (15 September 2014). "Syngenta Stands Firm On Neonicotinoids". Chemical & Engineering News. American Chemical Society. 92 (37): 7. doi:10.1021/cen-09237-notw1. Retrieved 13 September 2014.
  15. ^ "Scientific opinions differ on bee pesticide ban". BBC News. 29 April 2013. Retrieved 22 November 2013.
  16. ^ European Food, Safety Authority (2012). "Assessment of the scientific information from the Italian project 'APENET' investigating effects on honeybees of coated maize seeds with some neonicotinoids and fipronil". EFSA Journal. 10 (6): 2792. doi:10.2903/j.efsa.2012.2792.
  17. ^ "Bees & Pesticides: Commission goes ahead with plan to better protect bees". Retrieved 22 November 2013.
  18. ^ Damian Carrington, "Total ban on bee-harming pesticides likely after major new EU analysis", The Guardian, 28 February 2018 (page visited on 29 April 2018).
  19. ^ Damian Carrington, "EU agrees total ban on bee-harming pesticides ", The Guardian, 27 April 2018 (page visited on 29 April 2018).
  20. ^ "BBC News - UK allows emergency use of bee-harming pesticide". BBC News. 3 March 2021.