Comparative toxicity of pesticides and environmental contaminants in bees: are honey bees a useful proxy for wild bee species?

Heard, Matthew S.; Baas, Jan; Dorne, Jean-Lou; Lahive, Elma; Robinson, Alexander G.; Rortais, Agnes; Spurgeon, David J.; Svendsen, Claus; Hesketh, Helen. 2017 Comparative toxicity of pesticides and environmental contaminants in bees: are honey bees a useful proxy for wild bee species? Science of the Total Environment, 578. 357-365.

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Threats to wild and managed insect pollinators in Europe are cause for both ecological and socio-economic concern. Multiple anthropogenic pressures may be exacerbating pollinator declines. One key pressure is exposure to chemicals including pesticides and other contaminants. Historically the honey bee (Apis mellifera spp.) has been used as an ‘indicator’ species for ‘standard’ ecotoxicological testing but it has been suggested that it is not always a good proxy for other types of eusocial and solitary bees because of species differences in autecology and sensitivity to various stressors. We developed a common toxicity test system to conduct acute and chronic exposures of up to 240 h of similar doses of seven chemicals, targeting different metabolic pathways, on three bee species (Apis mellifera spp., Bombus terrestris and Osmia bicornis). We compared the relative sensitivity between species in terms of potency between the chemicals and the influence of exposure time on toxicity. While there were significant interspecific differences that varied through time, overall the magnitude of these differences (in terms of treatment effect ratios) was generally comparable (< 2 fold) although there were some large divergences from this pattern. Our results suggest that A. mellifera spp. could be used as a proxy for other bee species provided a reasonable assessment factor is used to cover interspecific variation. Perhaps more importantly our results show significant and large time dependency of toxicity across all three tested species that greatly exceeds species differences (> 25 fold within test). These are rarely considered in standard regulatory testing but may have severe environmental consequences, especially when coupled with the likelihood of differential species exposures in the wild. These insights indicate that further work is required to understand how differences in toxicokinetics vary between species and mixtures of chemicals.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Acreman
ISSN: 0048-9697
Additional Keywords: Apis, Bombus, Osmia, neonicotinoid, trace metal, DEBtox
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Date made live: 27 Jan 2017 10:51 +0 (UTC)

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