The effect of dietary neonicotinoid pesticides on non-flight thermogenesis in worker bumble bees (Bombus terrestris).
J Insect Physiol. 2018 Jan ;104:33-39. Epub 2017 Nov 10. PMID: 29133226
For bumble bees (genus Bombus), the capacity for non-flight thermogenesis is essential for two fundamental processes undertaken by adult workers, namely recovery from torpor after chilling and brood incubation. Farmland bees can be widely exposed to dietary residues of neurotoxic neonicotinoid insecticides that appear in the nectar and pollen of treated bee-attractive crops, which may harm them. An earlier study shows that dietary neonicotinoids cause complex alterations to thermoregulation in honey bees, but their effect on the thermogenic capabilities of individual bumble bees has been untested previously. We therefore conducted laboratory trials involving separate dietary exposures of bumble bees to two neonicotinoids, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam, and we measured their effects on the thoracic temperatures of bees during recovery from chilling. Specifically, we used thermal imaging to measure the rates of rewarming by individual bees after chill-induced torpor and to quantify their equilibrated thoracic temperatures post-recovery. We found that both toxicants caused dose-dependent decreases in the rates of rewarming and in the equilibrated thoracic temperatures. As previously found in honey bees, the dose-response relationship for imidacloprid exhibited a biphasic hormesis with low-dose stimulation and high-dose inhibition, for which we propose a mechanism. Our present study is among the first to detect ecologically relevant effects on bees in neonicotinoid exposures involving dietary concentrations below 5 ppb. If the effects on thoracic temperatures that we observed over a short period were sustained, they could have ecologically significant impacts on farmland bumble bees.