Individual and combined impacts of sulfoxaflor and Nosema bombi on bumblebee (Bombus terrestris) larval growth

Harry Siviter, Arran Folly, Mark J F Brown, Elli Leadbeater

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Sulfoxaflor is a globally important novel insecticide that can have negative impacts on the reproductive output of bumblebee (Bombus terrestris) colonies. However, it remains unclear as to which life-history stage is critically affected by exposure. One hypothesis is that sulfoxaflor exposure early in the colony’s life cycle can impair larval development, reducing the number of workers produced, and ultimately lowering colony reproductive output. Here we assess the influence of sulfoxaflor exposure on bumblebee larval mortality and growth both when tested in insolation and when in combination with the common fungal parasite Nosema bombi, following a pre-registered design. We found no significant impact of sulfoxaflor (5ppb) or N. bombi exposure (50,000 spores) on larval mortality when tested in isolation but found an additive, negative effect when larvae received both stressors in combination. Individually, sulfoxaflor and N. bombi exposure each impaired larval growth, although the impact of combined exposure fell significantly short of the predicted sum of the individual effects (i.e. they interacted antagonistically). Ultimately, our results suggest that colony-level consequences of sulfoxaflor exposure for bumblebees may be mediated through direct effects on larvae. As sulfoxaflor is licenced for use globally, our findings highlight the need to understand how novel insecticides impact non-target insects at various stages of their development.
Original languageEnglish
Article number20200935
Number of pages8
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series B, Biological Sciences
Issue number1932
Publication statusPublished - 5 Aug 2020

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