A common neonicotinoid pesticide, thiamethoxam, impairs honey bee flight ability.
Published Web Locationhttps://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-017-01361-8
Pesticides can pose environmental risks, and a common neonicotinoid pesticide, thiamethoxam, decreases homing success in honey bees. Neonicotinoids can alter bee navigation, but we present the first evidence that neonicotinoid exposure alone can impair the physical ability of bees to fly. We tested the effects of acute or chronic exposure to thiamethoxam on the flight ability of foragers in flight mills. Within 1 h of consuming a single sublethal dose (1.34 ng/bee), foragers showed excitation and significantly increased flight duration (+78%) and distance (+72%). Chronic exposure significantly decreased flight duration (-54%), distance (-56%), and average velocity (-7%) after either one or two days of continuous exposure that resulted in bees ingesting field-relevant thiamethoxam doses of 1.96-2.90 ng/bee/day. These results provide the first demonstration that acute or chronic exposure to a neonicotinoid alone can significantly alter bee flight. Such exposure may impair foraging and homing, which are vital to normal colony function and ecosystem services.