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Representative Results






Assessing Agrochemical Risk to Mated Honey Bee Queens

Published: March 3rd, 2021



1Invasive Species and Pollinator Health Research Unit, USDA-ARS, 2Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 3Neuroscience Program, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 4Department of Entomology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

This protocol was developed to enhance the understanding of how agrochemicals affect honey bee (Apis mellifera) reproduction by establishing methods to expose honey bee queens and their worker caretakers to agrochemicals in a controlled, laboratory setting and carefully monitoring their relevant responses.

Current risk assessment strategies for honey bees rely heavily upon laboratory tests performed on adult or immature worker bees, but these methods may not accurately capture the effects of agrochemical exposure on honey bee queens. As the sole producer of fertilized eggs inside a honeybee colony, the queen is arguably the most important single member of a functioning colony unit. Therefore, understanding how agrochemicals affect queen health and productivity should be considered a critical aspect of pesticide risk assessment. Here, an adapted method is presented to expose honey bee queens and worker queen attendants to agrochemical stressors administered through a worker diet, followed by tracking egg production in the laboratory and assessing first instar eclosion using a specialized cage, referred to as a Queen Monitoring Cage. To illustrate the method's intended use, results of an experiment in which worker queen attendants were fed diet containing sublethal doses of imidacloprid and effects on queens were monitored are described.

Due to increased global demand for agricultural products, modern farming practices often require the use of agrochemicals to control numerous pests known to reduce or harm crop yields1. Simultaneously, the growers of many fruit, vegetable, and nut crops rely on the pollination services provided by commercial honey bee colonies to ensure abundant crop yields2. These practices may result in pollinators, including honey bees (Apis mellifera), being exposed to harmful levels of pesticide residues3. At the same time, the widespread presence of parasitic Varroa destructor mite infestat....

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1. QMC assembly

  1. Assemble QMCs from parts (Figure 1A) with a single egg laying plate (ELP) inserted as shown in Figure 1B. Do not add feeder tubes until after the workers have been added to the cage. Temporarily cover the 4 feeder holes with laboratory grade tape.
  2. Insert the queen excluder and the feeding chamber door over the feeding chamber to keep the queen from entering the feeding chamber and contacting the treated diet. See Fine et al........

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The production of eggs was monitored in QMCs assembled and maintained as described above with once daily observations of egg production and 15 cages per treatment group. Newly mated queens of primarily Carniolan stock were purchased and shipped overnight from a queen breeder, and honey bee workers were obtained from 3 colonies maintained according to standard commercial methods at The Bee Research Facility at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Here, 4 dietary treatment groups were used: 1) 50 ppb (g/g) imidaclo.......

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The fecundity of female solitary insects as well as queens in eusocial insect colonies can be influenced by abiotic stressors such as agrochemicals25,28,29,30,33. In honey bees, the effects of agrochemicals on queens may be indirect, as they can occur via changes in their care and feeding by worker bees. Our representative results, which are similar to those r.......

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Thank you to Dr. Amy Cash-Ahmed, Nathanael J. Beach, and Alison L. Sankey for their assistance in carrying out this work. Mention of trade names or commercial products in this publication is solely for the purpose of providing specific information and does not imply recommendation or endorsement by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. This research was supported by a grant from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency # HR0011-16-2-0019 to Gene E. Robinson and Huimin Zhao, USDA project 2030-21000-001-00-D, and the Phenotypic Plasticity Research Experience for Community College Students at the University of Illino....

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Name Company Catalog Number Comments
Fluon BioQuip, Rancho Dominguez, CA 2871A
Honey bee queens Olivarez Honey Bees, Orland, CA
Imidacloprid Sigma-Aldritch, St. Louis, MO 37894
MegaBee Powder MegaBee, San Dieago, CA
Microcentrifuge tubes 2 mL ThermoFisher Scientific, Waltham, MA 02-682-004
Needles 20 gauge W. W. Grainger, Lake Forest, IL 5FVK4
Potassium Sulfate Sigma-Aldritch, St. Louis, MO P0772
Queen Monitoring Cages University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Patent application number: 20190350175
Sucrose Sigma-Aldritch, St. Louis, MO S8501
Universal Microplate Lids ThermoFisher Scientific, Waltham, MA 5500

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