- Pollinating insects provide crucial and economically important ecosystem services to crops and wild plants, but pollinators, particularly bees, are globally declining as a result of various driving factors, including the prevalent use of pesticides for crop protection. Sublethal pesticide exposure negatively impacts numerous pollinator life-history traits, but its influence on reproductive success remains largely unknown. Such information is pivotal, however, to our understanding of the long-term effects on population dynamics.
- We investigated the influence of field-realistic trace residues of the routinely used neonicotinoid insecticides thiamethoxam and clothianidin in nectar substitutes on the entire life-time fitness performance of the red mason bee Osmia bicornis.
- We show that chronic, dietary neonicotinoid exposure has severe detrimental effects on solitary bee reproductive output. Neonicotinoids did not affect adult bee mortality; however, monitoring of fully controlled experimental populations revealed that sublethal exposure resulted in almost 50% reduced total offspring production and a significantly male-biased offspring sex ratio.
- Our data add to the accumulating evidence indicating that sublethal neonicotinoid effects on non-Apis pollinators are expressed most strongly in a rather complex, fitness-related context. Consequently, to fully mitigate long-term impacts on pollinator population dynamics, present pesticide risk assessments need to be expanded to include whole life-cycle fitness estimates, as demonstrated in the present study using O. bicornis as a model.