Chemical Manipulation of Honey Bee Behavior

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Virginia Tech

The loss of managed honey bee colonies, resulting from their unintentional exposure to pesticides, is a topic of concern for the agricultural and apicultural industry. Current methods for reducing pesticide exposure to bees involve the application of pesticides before crop bloom or in the evening when foraging bees are less likely to be exposed to these applications. There is an urgent need for additional protection procedures to reduce the annual losses of managed bee colonies. Another method for protecting these pollinators is the use of chemical deterrents to reduce the interaction times of foraging bees with pesticide-treated crops. Historically, insect repellents (IRs) have been used to prevent the spread of deadly human diseases by arthropod vectors. However, it has been shown that bees can be repelled from pesticide-treated crops using DEET and bee pheromonal compounds. Here, I report the toxicological and deterrent effects of bee pheromonal compounds, as well as the deterrent effects of heterocyclic amines (HCAs) on bees. The results of this study indicate that the bee pheromonal compounds, at 8, 20, 60 and 100% concentrations, are toxic to bees and inhibit the feeding of bees within a confined space. Additionally, the pheromonal compounds and the HCAs are as efficacious as DEET in deterring bees from treated food sources. The HCA piperidine was observed to effectively deter bee foragers from a sugar feeder in a high-tunnel experiment as well as from melon flowers and knapweed in field experiments. Electroantennogram recordings were conducted to verify an olfactory response of the bees to the tested compounds. Pheromonal compounds were readily detected by bee antennae; whereas, the HCAs did not elicit significant responses in the bee antennae. These data suggest that bee pheromonal compounds, as well as HCAs, may serve as candidates for the further investigation as repellents to protect bees from unintentional pesticide exposures.

Honey Bee, Apis mellifera, Behavior, Repellency