Brain cholinesterase (ChE) activities of songbirds collected in pecan groves 6 to 7 hr after separate applications of the organophosphorus pesticides, phosalone and disulfoton, were compared to mean ChE activities of controls (normals) as a measure of insecticide exposure. In general, reduction of brain ChE activity ≥2 standard deviations below the control mean indicates exposure to an anticholinesterase compound. Phosalone had little effect on brain ChE activity of birds from treated groves; only slight to moderate (21 to 38%) ChE inhibition was detected in blue jays (Cyanocitta cristata) and red-bellied woodpeckers (Melanerpes carolinus). However, 11 of 15 blue jays from disulfoton-treated groves had moderate to severe ChE depression, ranging from 32 to 72%. Inhibition ≥50% of normal may be diagnostic for cause of death. Direct mortality was not observed, but studies have shown that bird carcasses disappear rapidly from agricultural areas, many within 24 hr. We recommend additional field studies of the effects of disulfoton to wildlife, since large wheat-growing areas in the western United States are being considered for disulfoton treatment to control the Russian wheat aphid (Diuraphis noxia).
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Vol. 26 • No. 1