The Hine's emerald dragonfly is one of more than 200 endangered species whose existence is threatened by the nation’s most widely used insecticides -- neonicotinoids, according to a recent analysis by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. (Photo courtesy of Missouri Department of Conservation)

The Hine’s emerald dragonfly has many names — Hine’s bog skimmer, the hook-tipped emerald. One name, the Ohio emerald, no longer applies.

The Hine’s emerald, considered one of the most endangered dragonflies and protected by the Endangered Species Act in 1995, is not currently found in Ohio, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 

Instead, it’s only found around Lake Michigan and Lake Superior, with remnant populations in Missouri and around Madison, Wisconsin.

The dragonfly is one of the more than 200 species that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found three neonicotinoids — imidacloprid, thiamethoxam and clothianidin — are driving toward extinction. Earlier this year, the EPA released a jeopardy analysis finding that the neonics — a class of insecticides — are putting these threatened species in “jeopardy,” or at-risk of extinction.

The species is the only dragonfly with protections. 

RELATED: Three widely used pesticides driving hundreds of endangered species toward extinction, according to EPA

“These are species that are adding value to our life,” said Aimée Code, pesticide program manager at the Xerces Society, a nonprofit focusing on invertebrate conservation. “They’re eating the mosquito larvae that we do not want to turn into adults and bite us while we’re having a backyard picnic.”

Another species being impacted is the rusty patched bumblebee. The species became the first bumblebee listed under the Endangered Species Act when it was protected in 2017. The rusty patched bumblebee used to be a wide-ranging species across the eastern United States, but is now found in limited numbers in small areas.

When a bee encounters a neonicotinoid, they become confused, have trouble foraging and finding their way around their nest. They also are more vulnerable to pathogens, which can shorten their lifespan. 

The rusty patched bumblebee is especially vulnerable because of the species’ lifecycle. A lone queen bee will go into a field and dig a nest. This often happens at the same time seeds are being planted, and if the queen is harmed by the insecticides, she will be unable to reproduce.

The Dakota Skipper butterfly is one species affected by neonicotinoids, a type of insecticide. (Photo from Creative Commons –

More than 160 species also likely to be jeopardized are plants by the indirect effects through loss of nearby pollinators.

Many species that have faced precipitous population declines still do not have protections, yet they also are vulnerable to neonics. These include ground-nesting insects, mayflies (which have faced a 50% decline in Wisconsin streams in recent years), and fireflies. In addition, more than a quarter of the bumblebees in the U.S. are at risk of extinction, Code said, including the Western bumblebee and the American bumblebee. Conservation groups have filed petitions to give both species ESA protections. A recent study by the U.S. Geological Survey found that neonics are the single biggest factor harming the Western bumblebee.

Two butterfly species in the croplands of the Midwest and Great Plains — the Dakota Skipper and the Poweshiek Skipperling — were among the jeopardy calls made by EPA.

“It’s very rare for them to make a jeopardy call at all,” said Tierra Curry, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity, a nonprofit working to protect endangered species. “To make a jeopardy call for hundreds of species is unprecedented.”

Type of work:

Investigative / Enterprise In-depth examination of a single subject requiring extensive research and resources.

Johnathan Hettinger focuses on pesticide coverage for Investigative Midwest. Growing up in central Illinois, Johnathan saw and had family members working in all aspects of agribusiness, from boots-in-the-field...