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Repeated short-term exposure to diesel exhaust reduces honey bee colony fitness

Reitmayer, C. M., Girling, R. D. ORCID:, Jackson, C. W. and Newman, T. A. (2022) Repeated short-term exposure to diesel exhaust reduces honey bee colony fitness. Environmental Pollution, 300 (1). 118934. ISSN 0269-7491

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1016/j.envpol.2022.118934


Production of insect-pollinated crops is often reliant on honey bee (Apis mellifera) pollination services. Colonies can be managed and moved to meet the demands of modern intensified monoculture farming systems. Increased colony mortalities have been observed, which are thought be caused by interacting factors including exposure to pesticides, parasites, viruses, agricultural intensification, and changes in global and regional climate. However, whilst common tropospheric air pollutants (e.g. NOx, particulate matter etc) are known to cause a range of negative effects on human health, there is little evidence of their impact on the health of A. mellifera. This study investigates the effects of exposure to diesel exhaust on A. mellifera, both at the level of individual foragers and on the whole colony. We exposed a series of colonies to diesel exhaust fumes for two hours a day over the course of three weeks and contrasted their performance to a series of paired control colonies located at the same field site. We investigated markers of neuronal health in the brains of individual foragers and measured the prevalence of common viruses. Electronic counters monitored daily colony activity patterns and pollen samples from returning foragers were analysed to investigate plant species richness and diversity. The amounts of honey, brood and pollen in each colony were measured regularly. We demonstrated an upregulation of the synapse protein Neurexin 1 in forager brains repeatedly exposed to diesel exhaust. Furthermore, we found that colonies exposed to diesel exhaust lost colony weight after the exposure period until the end of the summer season, whereas control colonies gained weight towards the end of the season. Further investigations are required, but we hypothesise that such effects on both individual foragers and whole colony fitness parameters could ultimately contribute to winter losses of honey bee colonies, particularly in the presence of additional stressors.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Life Sciences > School of Agriculture, Policy and Development > Department of Sustainable Land Management > Centre for Agri-environmental Research (CAER)
ID Code:102686


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