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Keywords:

  • Methylselenocysteine;
  • Pollinator;
  • Selenate;
  • Selenite;
  • Selenocystine

Abstract

Apis mellifera L. (Hymenoptera: Apidae) is an important agricultural pollinator in the United States and throughout the world. In areas of selenium (Se) contamination, honeybees may be at risk because of the biotransfer of Se from plant products such as nectar and pollen. Several forms of Se can occur in accumulating plants. In the present study, the toxicity of 4 compounds (selenate, selenite, methylselenocysteine, and selenocystine) to honeybee adult foragers and larvae was assessed using dose–response bioassays. Inorganic forms were more toxic than organic forms for both larvae (lethal concentration [LC50] selenate = 0.72 mg L−1, LC50 selenite = 1.0 mg L−1, LC50 methylselenocysteine = 4.7 mg L−1, LC50 selenocystine = 4.4 mg L−1) and foragers (LC50 selenate = 58 mg L−1, LC50 selenite = 58 mg L−1, LC50 methylselenocysteine = 161 mg L−1, LC50 selenocystine = 148 mg L−1). Inorganic forms of Se caused rapid mortality, and organic forms had sublethal effects on development. Larvae accumulated substantial amounts of Se only at the highest doses, whereas foragers accumulated large quantities at all doses. The present study documented very low larval LC50 values for Se; even modest transfer to brood will likely cause increased development times and mortality. The toxicities of the various forms of Se to honeybee larvae and foragers are discussed in comparison with other insect herbivores and detritivores. Environ Toxicol Chem 2013;32:2584–2592. © 2013 SETAC