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Research Article Open Access

Physiological and Ethological Effects of a Pelargonic Acid Herbicide Used by Non-professional Persons: A Study on Ants as Biological Models


Objective: Nowadays, the environmental including natural water is polluted by products used by humans. Among them, pharmaceutical drugs and pesticides are largely studied. Investigations on herbicides are less numerous, though the most toxic one has been banned. Using ants as models, we examined the potential harmful effects of an herbicide still authorized for gardeners, the active substance of which is pelargonic acid.

Methods: We used the experimental protocols we are accustomed to use for examining the physiological and ethological impacts of products, drugs, or situations. We worked on ants as biological models, as usually, and we explain in the paper why we work according to this way.

Results: We found that this substance reduced the ants’ food intake, activity, orientation ability, audacity, tactile perception, social relationships, cognition, learning and memorization. The ants did not adapt themselves to these side effects. After having no longer been in contact with the herbicide, the survived ants recovered in a total of 24 hours according to a quadratic function. Using herbicides the active substance of which is pelargonic acid imperils thus the life or at least the health of the soil fauna, and although having been duly weeded, the treated areas are deprived of their essential fauna.

Conclusion: We recommend using pelargonic acid herbicides for weeding only not cultivated lands (paths, alleys, sidewalks) and never for weeding arable lands. Also, we recommend to pay attention to the users’ health, as well as to not pollute natural water.

Marie-Claire Cammaerts

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