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Keywords:

  • pesticides;
  • bumble bees;
  • toxicity;
  • spinosad;
  • sub-lethal effects;
  • foraging

Abstract

Recent developments of new families of pesticides and growing awareness of the importance of wild pollinators for crop pollination have stimulated interest in potential effects of novel pesticides on wild bees. Yet pesticide toxicity studies on wild bees remain rare, and few studies have included long-term monitoring of bumble bee colonies or testing of foraging ability after pesticide exposure. Larval bees feeding on exogenous pollen and exposed to pesticides during development may result in lethal or sub-lethal effects during the adult stage. We tested the effects of a naturally derived biopesticide, spinosad, on bumble bee (Bombus impatiens Cresson) colony health, including adult mortality, brood development, weights of emerging bees and foraging efficiency of adults that underwent larval development during exposure to spinosad. We monitored colonies from an early stage, over a 10-week period, and fed spinosad to colonies in pollen at four levels: control, 0.2, 0.8 and 8.0 mg kg−1, during weeks 2 through 5 of the experiment. At concentrations that bees would likely encounter in pollen in the wild (0.2–0.8 mg kg−1) we detected minimal negative effects to bumble bee colonies. Brood and adult mortality was high at 8.0 mg kg−1 spinosad, about twice the level that bees would be exposed to in a ‘worst case’ field scenario, resulting in colony death two to four weeks after initial pesticide exposure. At more realistic concentrations there were potentially important sub-lethal effects. Adult worker bees exposed to spinosad during larval development at 0.8 mg kg−1 were slower foragers on artificial complex flower arrays than bees from low or no spinosad treated colonies. Inclusion of similar sub-lethal assays to detect effects of pesticides on pollinators would aid in development of environmentally responsible pest management strategies. Copyright © 2005 Society of Chemical Industry