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Spontaneous honeybee behaviour is altered by persistent organic pollutants

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Sally Williamson, Dr Ann Fitchett, Professor Geraldine Wright, Dr Sarah Judge



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


The effect of environmental pollutants on honeybee behaviour has focused mainly on currently used pesticides. However, honeybees are also exposed to persistent organic pollutants (POPs). The aim of this laboratory based study was to determine if exposure to sublethal field-relevant concentrations of POPs altered the spontaneous behaviour of foraging-age worker honeybees. Honeybees (Apis mellifera) were orally exposed to either a sublethal concentration of the polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) mixture Aroclor 1254 (100 ng/ml), the organochlorine insecticide lindane (2.91 ng/ml) or vehicle (0.01% DMSO, 0.00015% ethanol in 1M sucrose) for 1–4 days. The frequency of single event behaviours and the time engaged in one of four behavioural states (walking, flying, upside down and stationary) were monitored for 15 min after 1, 2, 3 and 4 days exposure. Exposure to Aroclor 1254 but not lindane increased the frequency and time engaged in honeybee motor activity behaviours in comparison to vehicle. The Aroclor 1254—induced hyperactivity was evident after 1 day of exposure and persisted with repeated daily exposure. In contrast, 1 day of exposure to lindane elicited abdominal spasms and increased the frequency of grooming behaviours in comparison to vehicle exposure. After 4 days of exposure, abdominal spasms and increased grooming behaviours were also evident in honeybees exposed to Aroclor 1254. These data demonstrate that POPs can induce distinct behavioural patterns, indicating different toxicokinetic and toxicodynamic properties. The changes in spontaneous behaviour, particularly the PCB-induced chronic hyperactivity and the associated energy demands, may have implications for colony health.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Drummond J, Williamson SM, Fitchett AE, Wright GA, Judge SJ

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Ecotoxicology

Year: 2017

Volume: 26

Issue: 1

Pages: 141-150

Print publication date: 01/01/2017

Online publication date: 08/12/2016

Acceptance date: 20/11/2016

Date deposited: 12/12/2016

ISSN (print): 0963-9292

ISSN (electronic): 1573-3017

Publisher: Springer


DOI: 10.1007/s10646-016-1749-0


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