Pollinators and other insects are experiencing an ongoing worldwide decline. While various environmental stressors have been implicated, including pesticide exposure, the causes of these declines are complex and highly debated. Fungicides may constitute a particularly prevalent threat to pollinator health due to their application on many crops during bloom, and because pollinators such as bees may consume fungicide-tainted pollen or nectar. In a previous study, consumption of pollen containing the fungicide Pristine® at field-relevant concentrations by honey bee colonies increased pollen foraging, caused earlier foraging, lowered worker survival, and reduced colony population size. Because most pollen is consumed by young adults, we hypothesized that Pristine® (25.2% boscalid, 12.8% pyraclostrobin) in pollen exerts its negative effects on honey bee colonies primarily on the adult stage. To rigorously test this hypothesis, we used a cross-fostering experimental design, with bees reared in colonies provided Pristine® incorporated into pollen patties at a supra-field concentration (230 mg/kg), only in the larvae, only in the adult, or both stages. In contrast to our predictions, exposure to Pristine® in either the larval or adult stage reduced survival relative to control bees not exposed to Pristine®, and exposure to the fungicide at both larval and adult stages further reduced survival. Adult exposure caused precocious foraging, while larval exposure increased the tendency to forage for pollen. These results demonstrate that pollen containing Pristine® can induce significant negative effects on both larvae and adults in a hive, though the magnitude of such effects may be smaller at field-realistic doses. To further test the potential negative effects of direct consumption of Pristine® on larvae, we reared them in vitro on food containing Pristine® at a range of concentrations. Consumption of Pristine® reduced survival rates of larvae at all concentrations tested. Larval and adult weights were only reduced at a supra-field concentration. We conclude that consumption of pollen containing Pristine® by field honey bee colonies likely exerts impacts on colony population size and foraging behavior by affecting both larvae and adults.
- Honey bees
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
- Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis