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Simultaneous stressors : interactive effects of an immune challenge and dietary toxin can be detrimental to honeybees

posted on 12.03.2020 by Angela Kohler
Recent large-scale mortality of honeybee colonies is believed to be caused by multiple interactions between diseases, parasites, pesticide exposure, and other stress factors. To test whether a dual challenge has an additive effect in reducing survival, we experimentally stimulated the immune system of caged Apis mellifera scutellata workers from six colonies by injecting saline or Escherichia coli lipopolysaccharides (LPS), and additionally fed them the alkaloid nicotine (0 µM, 3 µM and 300 µM in 0.63 M sucrose). Workers did not increase their sucrose intake to compensate for the immune system activation, and those injected with E. coli LPS decreased their intake on the highest nicotine concentration. In the single challenges, injection and high nicotine doses negatively affected survival. All injected worker groups showed reduced survival. Without nicotine, survival of the saline and E. coli LPS worker groups was similar, but survival of E. coli LPS-challenged workers dropped below that of the saline groups when additionally challenged by nicotine, with bees dying earlier at higher nicotine concentrations. In the dual challenge of saline injection and dietary nicotine, a reduced effect on survival was observed, with lower mortality than expected from the summed mortalities due to the single challenges. However, additive and synergistic effects on survival were observed in workers simultaneously challenged by E. coli LPS and nicotine, indicating that interactive effects of simultaneous pathogen exposure and dietary toxin are detrimental to honeybee fitness.


Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, UK

National Research Foundation

University of Pretoria

The Claude Leon Foundation




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