The systemic neonicotinoid insecticides are considered as one of the key culprits contributing to ongoing declines in pollinator health and abundance. Bumblebees are among the most important pollinators of temperate zone plants, making their susceptibility to neonicotinoid exposure of great concern. We report that bumblebee (Bombus terrestris) colonies exposed to field-realistic concentrations of the commonly used neonicotinoid Imidacloprid grew slower, consumed less food, and produced fewer workers, males and gynes, but unexpectedly produced larger workers compared to control colonies. Behavioural observations show that queens in pesticide-treated colonies spend more time inactive and less time caring for the brood. We suggest that the observed effects on brood body size are driven by a decreased queen ability to manipulate the larva developmental programme. These findings reveal an intricate and previously unknown effect of insecticides on the social interactions controlling brood development in social insect colonies. Insecticide influences on the social mechanisms regulating larval development are potentially detrimental for bumblebees, in which body size strongly influences both caste differentiation and the division of labour among workers, two organization principles of insect societies.
|Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
|Published - 30 Nov 2022
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- Bombus terrestris
- body size
- brood development
- queen behaviour