Co-formulant in a commercial fungicide product causes lethal and sub-lethal effects in bumble bees

Ed Straw, Mark J F Brown

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Pollinators, particularly wild bees, are suffering declines across the globe, and pesticides are thought to be drivers of these declines. Research into, and regulation of pesticides has focused on the active ingredients, and their impact on bee health. In contrast, the additional components in pesticide formulations have been overlooked as potential threats. By testing an acute oral dose of the fungicide product Amistar, and equivalent doses of each individual co‐formulant, we were able to measure the toxicity of the formulation and identify the ingredient responsible. We found that a co‐formulant, alcohol ethoxylates, caused a range of damage to bumble bee health. Exposure to alcohol ethoxylates caused 30% mortality and a range of sublethal effects. Alcohol ethoxylates treated bees consumed half as much sucrose as negative control bees over the course of the experiment and lost weight. Alcohol ethoxylates treated bees had significant melanisation of their midguts, evidence of gut damage. We suggest that this gut damage explains the reduction in appetite, weight loss and mortality, with bees dying from energy depletion. Our results demonstrate that sublethal impacts of pesticide formulations need to be considered during regulatory consideration, and that co‐formulants can be more toxic than active ingredients.
Original languageEnglish
Article number21653 (2021)
JournalScientific Reports
Publication statusPublished - 5 Nov 2021

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