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Title: Impact of sublethal doses of crop protection agents on honey bees: aberrant onset of foraging and its influence on global colony vitality
Authors: Beliën, Tim
Kellers, Jeroen
Heylen, Kevin
Keulemans, Wannes
Billen, Johan
Arckens, Lut
Huybrechts, Roger
Gobin, Bruno #
Issue Date: 2009
Publisher: Universiteit Gent
Host Document: Communications in Agricultural and Applied Biological Sciences
Conference: International Symposium on Crop Protection edition:61 location:Gent, Belgium date:May 19, 2009
Abstract: Honey bees (Apis mellifera) are the most economically valuable pollinators of fruit
crops worldwide. Taking into account bees' contributions to other flowering
agricultural crops, about one-third of our total diet comes directly or indirectly
from bee-pollinated plants. However, in recent years there increasingly have been
worrisome alarm sounds on serious bee mortalities and mysterious disappearance
of bees from beehives. Among several environmental factors (e.g. climate and bee
pathogens), stress factors arising from agricultural practices can potentially play a
role in bee losses. Detailed knowledge on the effects of plant protection products
is essential to improve usage with minimal risks.
The goal of the present study was to assess potential effects of some common plant
protection products on foraging activity of adult honey bees following worst case
exposure. More specifically, our objective was to evaluate treatment effect on the
timing of a bee’s duty transition from nursing to foraging activities. Hereto, a
large-scale experiment was conducted in which at four distinct locations (in the
Limburg region of Belgium) strictly age-controlled bees from four different bee
hives (representing three different contaminations –imidacloprid, fenoxycarb,
indoxacarb- and a non-contaminated control hive) were analysed for their
phototactic movements. As foraging necessitates positive phototaxis, this allows
for an evaluation of bee’s shift from in-hive nursing activities to outside foraging
activities. In a supplementary experiment, foraging activity of age-marked bees
from different colonies (again undergoing distinct pesticide treatments) was
followed up by filming the hive entrance 12 hours a day, in a time frame that
extensively covers the expected transition from nurse to forager. Our observations
indicate differences in foraging onset between bees belonging to distinct hives.
These results were analysed in the light of several carefully assessed parameters
indicating overall colony vitality, like total surface of capped brood, total amount
of active and dead bees, colony weight, etc. The implications of these outcomes
are discussed in terms of potential short-term and long-term consequences of
disturbed foraging behaviour triggered by exaggerated exposure to sublethal doses
of crop protection chemicals.
ISSN: 1379-1176
Publication status: published
KU Leuven publication type: IMa
Appears in Collections:Animal Physiology and Neurobiology Section - miscellaneous
Research Group Neuroplasticity and Neuroproteomics (-)
Ecology, Evolution and Biodiversity Conservation Section
Division of Crop Biotechnics
# (joint) last author

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