Entomology, Department of


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Journal of Insect Science, (2024) 24(3): 13; ieae034 https://doi.org/10.1093/jisesa/ieae034


Open access.


Honey bees exhibit age polyethism and thus have a predictable sequence of behaviors they express through developmental time. Numerous laboratory studies show exposure to pesticides may impair critical honey bee behaviors (brood care, foraging, egg-laying, etc.) that adversely affect colony productivity and survival. There are fewer studies that examine the impacts of pesticides in natural field settings, especially given the challenges of implementing treatment groups and controlling variables. This study helps address the need for impact studies on pollinators under field conditions to assess the consequences of chemical overuse and dependency in agricultural and urban landscapes. To assess the impact of systemic pesticides in a natural field setting on worker bee behavioral development, observation hives were established to monitor changes in behaviors of similarly aged workers and sister queens within 2 experimental groups: (i) colonies located near point-source systemic pesticide pollution (pesticide contaminated treatment), and (ii) colonies embedded within a typical Midwestern US agricultural environment (control). In this study, worker bees in the contaminated environment exhibited important and biologically significant behavioral differences and accelerated onset of hive tasks (i.e., precocious behavioral development) compared to similarly aged bees at the control site. Queen locomotion was largely unaffected; however, the egg-laying rate was reduced in queens at the contaminated (treated) site. These results show that environmental pesticide exposure can disrupt colony function and adversely affect worker bee behavioral maturation, leading to reduced worker longevity and decreased colony efficiency.

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