Multiple stressors interact to impair the performance of bumblebee (Bombus terrestris) colonies

Botias, Cristina, Jones, Julia C, Pamminger, Tobias, Bartomeus, Ignasi, Hughes, William O H and Goulson, Dave (2020) Multiple stressors interact to impair the performance of bumblebee (Bombus terrestris) colonies. Journal of Applied Ecology. ISSN 0021-8901

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1. Bumblebees are constantly exposed to a wide range of biotic and abiotic stresses which they must defend themselves against to survive. Pathogens and pesticides represent important stressors that influence bumblebee health, both when acting alone or in combination. To better understand bumblebee health, we need to investigate how these factors interact, yet experimental studies to date generally focus on only one or two stressors.

2. The aim of this study is to evaluate how combined effects of four important stressors (the gut parasite Nosema ceranae, the neonicotinoid insecticide thiamethoxam, the pyrethroid insecticide cypermethrin, and the EBI‐fungicide tebuconazole) interact to affect bumblebees at the individual and colony levels.

3. We established seven treatment groups of colonies that we pulse exposed to different combinations of these stressors for two weeks under laboratory conditions. Colonies were subsequently placed in the field for seven weeks to evaluate the effect of treatments on the prevalence of N. ceranae in inoculated bumblebees, expression levels of immunity and detoxification‐related genes, food collection, weight gain, worker and male numbers, and production of worker brood and reproductives.

4. Exposure to pesticide mixtures reduced food collection by bumblebees. All immunity‐related genes were upregulated in the bumblebees inoculated with N. ceranae when they had not been exposed to pesticide mixtures, and bumblebees exposed to the fungicide and the pyrethroid were less likely to have N. ceranae. Combined exposure to the three‐pesticides mixture and N. ceranae reduced bumblebee colony growth, and all treatments had detrimental effects on brood production. The groups exposed to the neonicotinoid insecticide produced 40‐76% fewer queens than control colonies.

5. Our findings show that exposure to combinations of stressors that bumblebees frequently come into contact with have detrimental effects on colony health and performance and could therefore have an impact at the population level. These results also have significant implications for current practices and policies for pesticide risk assessment and use as the combinations tested here are frequently applied simultaneously in the field. Understanding the interactions between different stressors will be crucial for improving our ability to manage bee populations and for ensuring pollination services into the future.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Life Sciences > Evolution, Behaviour and Environment
SWORD Depositor: Mx Elements Account
Depositing User: Mx Elements Account
Date Deposited: 19 Oct 2020 07:17
Last Modified: 22 Oct 2021 01:00

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