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Sublethal effects of clothianidin and Nosema spp. on the longevity and foraging activity of free flying honey bees

Odemer, Richard, Nilles, Lisa, Linder, Nadine, Rosenkranz, Peter
Ecotoxicology 2018 v.27 no.5 pp. 527-538
Nosema, chronic exposure, clothianidin, flight, foraging, honey bees, longevity, mortality, pathogens, risk assessment, social environment, sublethal effects, synergism
Neonicotinoids alone or in combination with pathogens are considered to be involved in the worldwide weakening of honey bees. We here present a new approach for testing sublethal and/or synergistic effects in free flying colonies. In our experiment individually marked honey bees were kept in free flying mini-hives and chronically exposed to sublethal doses of the neonicotinoid clothianidin. Additional groups of bees were challenged with Nosema infections or with combinations of the pesticide and pathogens. Longevity and flight activity of the differentially treated bees were monitored for a period of 18 days. In contrast to previous laboratory studies, no effect of the neonicotinoid treatment on mortality or flight activity could be observed. Although the lifespan of Nosema infected bees were significantly reduced compared to non-infected bees a combination of pesticide and pathogen did not reveal any synergistic effect. Our results indicate that individual bees are less impaired by neonicotinoids if kept within the social environment of the colony. The effect of such a “social buffering” should be considered in future risk assessments.