University of Oulu

Lämsä J, Kuusela E, Tuomi J, Juntunen S, Watts PC. 2018 Low dose of neonicotinoid insecticide reduces foraging motivation of bumblebees. Proc. R. Soc. B 285: 20180506.

Low dose of neonicotinoid insecticide reduces foraging motivation of bumblebees

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Author: Lämsä, Juho1; Kuusela, Erno1; Tuomi, Juha1,2;
Organizations: 1Ecology and Genetics, University of Oulu
2Department of Biology, Section of Ecology, University of Turku
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.6 MB)
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Language: English
Published: The Royal Society, 2018
Publish Date: 2018-09-07


Widespread use of neonicotinoid insecticides, such as imidacloprid, is often associated with diminishing populations of bees; this loss of pollinators presents a concern for food security and may cause unpredictable changes in ecological networks. However, little is known about the potential behavioural mechanisms behind the neonicotinoid-associated pollinator decline. We quantified the effects of low-dose (1 ppb) imidacloprid exposure on the foraging behaviour of bumblebees (Bombus terrestris). Individual bumblebees were released into a flight arena containing three patches of robotic flowers whose colour (yellow, orange, blue) indicated whether the flower delivered a reward (sugar solution). Exposure to imidacloprid had no significant effect on measures of bumblebee physical performance (such as flight speed) or learning (identifying rewarding flowers). However, pesticide-treated bumblebees had reduced foraging motivation compared with the control bumblebees, as they visited fewer robotic flowers, were slower to start foraging and did not visit all three flower colours as often. Neonicotinoid concentrations of 1 ppb, often reported in plant nectar near agricultural lands, can thus affect the foraging behaviour of bumblebees. Even without a notable impact on flight performance and learning, a reduction in foraging motivation could explain the poor performance of colonies of bumblebees exposed to neonicotinoids.

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Series: Proceedings of the Royal Society. B, Biological sciences
ISSN: 0962-8452
ISSN-E: 1471-2954
ISSN-L: 0962-8452
Volume: 285
Issue: 1883
Article number: 20180506
DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2018.0506
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 1181 Ecology, evolutionary biology
Funding: This work was funded by grants from the Finnish Cultural Foundation, Oskar Öflunds Foundation and the University of Oulu Scholarship Foundation.
Dataset Reference: Electronic supplementary material is available online at:
Copyright information: © 2018 The Authors. Published by the Royal Society under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, provided the original author and source are credited.