Sublethal effects of fipronil on the ability of honeybees (Apis mellifera L.) to orientate in a complex maze

Axel Decourtye, Samuel Lefort, James Devillers, Monique Gauthier, Pierrick Aupinel, Michel Tisseur


contribution to session IV

Test methodology

Background: The recent fipronil-based pesticide is accused by bee-keepers of causing depopulations in hives of honeybees (Apis mellifera L.). Behavioural effects during the flight of foraging honeybees would have been evoked. To test whether the insecticide fipronil may disorientate foragers, its impact on orientation in a maze was examined. Bees had to fly through a sequence of boxes to reach the target, which was a feeder containing a reward of sugar solution. After being trained to associate a green mark with the reward, foragers received 1 μg kg-1 fipronil orally and their capacity to orientate through the maze following the colour mark was tested and compared to control.

Results: The rate of foragers entering the maze, and so responding to the mark placed at the entrance, was reduced with fipronil-fed animals. Before and after treatment, 86-89% of bees equally flew through the whole path and arrived to the goal without mistakes. The rate of fipronil-treated bees finding path without mistakes decreased to 60%. Conversely, the rate of bees with unsuccessful searches for the goal notably increased with treatment (34% in treated bees versus 4% in control bees).

Conclusion: Our results show that orientation capacities of foragers in a complex maze were affected by fipronil.

Keywords: Apis mellifera L., pesticide, maze, conditioning, visual learning, flight




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