If you have never heard of the word ‘systemic insecticide’, then you’ve not been gardening for a while, too bad.

Systemic insecticides are chemical solutions that can be applied to the soil, which is then transported in the xylem to the plants to exterminate the pests that might want to feed on them.

A systemic insecticide is used to get rid of pests that feed on a particular plant so that when the pest attempts to eat the plant, the insects die- the plant becomes poisonous to them.

Systemic Insecticides Examples

Four primary insecticides are used on food crops. The insecticides are part of the nitroguanidine and neonicotinoid group of chemicals.

Neonicotinoids/ Nitroguanidine

These are broad-spectrum insecticides with a synthetic representation of the natural insecticide- nicotine. They are acetylcholine receptors who have very high toxicity in plant-eating insects but low toxicity in humans and pets.

They can be applied as soil treatments, drenches, seeds, or sprays producing results in a matter of minutes or at most, hours.

Insects who take in chemicals containing neonicotinoids react immediately with leg tremors, withdrawals, fast wing motion, paralysis, unstable movement without direction, and eventually death, all taking place within minutes or at most hours.

Below is a list of the main systemic insecticides that are used on food crops. They are;

  1. Imidacloprid
  2. Thiamethoxam
  3. Clothianidin
  4. Dinotefuran

Others are;

  1. Acetamiprid
  2. Thiacloprid


These kinds of insecticide can be used on a wide range of vegetables, including tomatoes and peppers, from the day they were planted up to when they will be harvested.

Imidacloprid is wickedly dangerous to insects! It is a neonicotinoid that acts as neurotoxins to insects. This chemical damages the nervous system of insects by disrupting the transmission of stimuli in the nervous system.

This is how it works: the insecticide blocks the nicotinic neuronal path. When this happens, imidacloprid does not allow acetylcholine to transmit impulses between nerves which will eventually lead to paralysis and then death- all this happens in a matter of an hour, most times minutes.

Imidacloprid is more toxic to insects than to mammals. So you are safe to an extent.

Below is a list of Imidacloprid insecticides that are intended for home-use, gardens, and plantations. You can find them in retail shops, farms, garden centers, and ranch supply shops;

  • Admire
  • Advise
  • Mallet
  • Marathon
  • Alias (imidacloprid)
  • AmTide Imidacloprid
  • Couraze (imidacloprid)


Since 2002, after it’s the first approval for the seed treatment of corn, thiamethoxam has been used on a wide range of vegetables including fruit crops.

Thiamethoxam is also a broad-spectrum systemic insecticide- this means that it is optimally active. The substance once applied is absorbed by the plant, and it is taken to all the parts of the plants, especially the pollen where it acts as the plant’s guard.

Once an insect can feed on the plant containing thiamethoxam insecticide, the chemical will be absorbed in its stomach. Then the standard transmission of signals between the nerve cell is disrupted immediately. Eventually, the muscles of the insect will get paralyzed when the chemical compound interferes with nicotine acetylcholine in the central nervous system causing a break down of the nervous system. This also happens within a short period.

Below is a list of thiamethoxam insecticide that is intended for home-use, gardens, and plantations. You can find them in retail shops, farms, garden centers, and ranch supply shops;

  • Actara (thiamethoxam)
  • Cruiser (thiamethoxam)
  • Platinum (thiamethoxam)
  • Durivo (chlorantraniliprole + thiamethoxam)


This insecticide can be used as a seed treatment on selected food crops like; canola, potatoes, corn, and sugar beets.

Clothianidin is also like imidacloprid and thiamethoxam, and they belong to the same neonicotinoid class of insecticide. They serve as neurotoxins focused on disrupting the normal workings of the central nervous system.

Even though nicotine is more toxic and rapidly breaks down in the environment, Clothianidin was developed just like the other neonicotinoids not to be more active but to last longer than nicotine.

It was established in 2012 that the clothianidin dust used during planting time would continue to be potent for several years after. The danger of this is that it will harm the beneficial insect and bees around.

A Clothianidin insecticide that you can find at your local store is Belay (Clothianidin)


This insecticide can be used mostly on cucumber family crops, leafy greens, and potatoes. It can be used to combat pests like aphids, sawflies, white grubs, leafhoppers, whiteflies, mole cricket, thrips, leafminers, lace bugs, cockroaches, beetles, mealybugs and billbugs.

This insecticide is capable of harming beneficial insects and bees. It is suspected to cause the death of a large number of bee in Oregon, USA.

It is mostly used by professional pest control units and can be applied in commercial and residential buildings to combat insect infestation.

When Dinotefuran is combined with pyriproxyfen or permethrin, it can also be used in veterinary medicine to eradicate or prevent flea and tick in dogs and cats.

A recent study has shown that dinotefuran is active in exterminating a wild infestation of lanternflies. However, the producer of this insecticide has warned that the product is not meant to be used on older, sickly, or animals under medication, pregnant, or nursing animals. Puppies and kitten younger than 74 or weeks must not use dinotefuran.

Below is a list of Dinotefuran insecticide that is intended for home-use, gardens, and plantations. You can find them in retail shops, farms, garden centers, and ranch supply shops;

  • Safari (dinotefuran)
  • Scorpion (dinotefuran):
  • Venom (dinotefuran):


This brand of neonicotinoid can be used on a wide variety of crops, vegetables, and even trees.

They include; rice, canola, stone fruit, potatoes, tobacco, tomatoes, cucumbers, plums, cereals, peaches, sugar beets, melons, pears, cotton, onions, tea, peppers, strawberries, cherry, apples, fruit flies and house plants, including ornamental plants.

Acetamiprid is a useful insecticide that can be used in subsistence and commercial farming. One more exciting feature is that it can be used to exterminate a bed bug infestation.

This is how it works: Just like the other neonicotinoid, the main work it to cause a significant break down in the central nervous system. It disrupts the nicotine acetylcholine receptors and their normal functioning. This then results in the breakdown of the central nervous signal through the body of the insect.

Once the insects take the insecticide in, it beings to get excited and act in an uncoordinated manner, later on, it gets paralyzed and then finally dies. This whole process happens within 30 minutes of ingestion.

An Acetamiprid insecticide that can be gotten at your local store is Assail (acetamiprid)


This also belongs to the class of neonicotinoid. And just like the others, it aims at exterminating the life of a pest by disrupting the normal functioning of the nervous system.

It stimulates the nicotinic acetylcholine receptors to interfere with the dissemination of signals and thereby causes a breakdown that ends in the insect’s paralysis and then death.

Bayer Crop Science developed thiacloprid to be used on a wide range of crops and to be used to exterminate a wide range of insects, especially aphids and whiteflies.

A Thiacloprid insecticide that can be found in your local store is Thiacoprid- amide


There is a significant difference between a systemic insecticide and a contact insecticide even though they are designed to achieve the same result.

A systemic insecticide works on destroying the system of an insect, and it works by making the plants they like to feed on toxic to them. Whereas, contact insecticide exterminates an insect when it is applied directly to the insect.

Some systemic insecticides are produced naturally by transgenic plants which are also known as Plant-Incorporated Protectants (PIP). Meanwhile, some natural compounds act as a contact insecticide and can be used to get rid of pests affecting the plants, for instance, the neem oil is highly poisonous and can be used against pests on contact.

While contact insecticide is sprayed to exterminate micro pests directly, a systemic insecticide is added to the soil which is then transported in the xylem- the xylem is a tissue in plants that transports water and soluble minerals from the roots to give support to softer tissues.

There are some destructive insects that contact insecticide will not be able to reach because they can hide under cover of the plant or take shelter anywhere else. Some might even bury themselves in the soil until the poisonous chemical wears out.

But with a systemic insecticide, there is no leeway out for them. They are tempted by the plant they like to feed on, and so they are exterminated.

But then, it is a safer means of getting rid of the micro pest in the farmland or garden. It is more reliable than contact insecticide because the insecticide is contained in the soil, and the risk of contamination is contained to a large extent.

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