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Predicting Honeybee Colony Failure: Using the BEEHAVE Model to Simulate Colony Responses to Pesticides

Rumkee, Jack C. O., Becher, Matthias A., Thorbek, Pernille, Kennedy, Peter J., Osborne, Juliet L.
Environmental Science & Technology 2015 v.49 no.21 pp. 12879-12887
Apis mellifera, adults, honey bee colonies, honey bees, insect larvae, lethal dose 50, mortality, nectar, oviposition, pesticides, pollen, prediction, simulation models
To simulate effects of pesticides on different honeybee (Apis mellifera L.) life stages, we used the BEEHAVE model to explore how increased mortalities of larvae, in-hive workers, and foragers, as well as reduced egg-laying rate, could impact colony dynamics over multiple years. Stresses were applied for 30 days, both as multiples of the modeled control mortality and as set percentage daily mortalities to assess the sensitivity of the modeled colony both to small fluctuations in mortality and periods of low to very high daily mortality. These stresses simulate stylized exposure of the different life stages to nectar and pollen contaminated with pesticide for 30 days. Increasing adult bee mortality had a much greater impact on colony survival than mortality of bee larvae or reduction in egg laying rate. Importantly, the seasonal timing of the imposed mortality affected the magnitude of the impact at colony level. In line with the LD₅₀, we propose a new index of “lethal imposed stress”: the LIS₅₀ which indicates the level of stress on individuals that results in 50% colony mortality. This (or any LISₓ) is a comparative index for exploring the effects of different stressors at colony level in model simulations. While colony failure is not an acceptable protection goal, this index could be used to inform the setting of future regulatory protection goals.