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Different toxic and hormetic responses of Bombus impatiens to Beauveria bassiana, Bacillus subtilis and spirotetramat


Correspondence to: G Christopher Cutler, Department of Environmental Sciences, Faculty of Agriculture, Dalhousie University, PO Box 550, Truro, NS B2N 5E3, Canada. E-mail:



Pollinator exposure to pesticides is a concern in agricultural systems that depend on pollinators for crop production. However, not all pesticides elicit toxic effects, and response to a pesticide will vary depending on dose and exposure route. The effects of biopesticide formulations of Bacillus subtilis and Beauveria bassiana and of the tetramic acid insecticide spirotetramat on the common eastern bumblebee, Bombus impatiens, were evaluated. Microcolonies of bees were exposed to field-rate or lower concentrations, and data were collected over 60 days.


When ingested, field rates of spirotetramat caused high mortality after 10 days, and B. subtilis significantly reduced drone production, number of days to oviposition and number of days to drone emergence. Converse to effects observed following ingestion, topical applications of B. subtilis at concentrations less than the recommended field rate resulted in a hormetic response, with significantly increased drone production. Topical application of spirotetramat and oral or topical application of B. bassiana had no effects on bees.


Spirotetramat and B. subtilis can induce adverse effects on B. impatiens, but hormetic effects following B. subtilis treatment can also occur, depending on exposure route. Additional experiments are required to determine whether similar toxic or hormetic effects occur under more realistic field conditions. © 2012 Society of Chemical Industry