DOI: 10.3390/insects14080713 ISSN:

A New Approach for Detecting Sublethal Effects of Neonicotinoids on Bumblebees Using Optical Sensor Technology

Vasileia Chatzaki, Marta Montoro, Rámi El-Rashid, Annette Bruun Jensen, Antoine Lecocq
  • Insect Science

Among insects, bees are important pollinators, providing many vital ecosystem services. The recent pollinator decline is threatening both their diversity and abundance. One of the main drivers of this decline is the extensive use of pesticides. Neonicotinoids, one of the most popular groups of pesticides, can be toxic to bees. In fact, numerous studies have found that neonicotinoids can cause sublethal effects, which can impair the biology, physiology, and colony survival of the bees. Yet, there are still knowledge gaps, and more research is needed to better understand the interaction between neonicotinoids and bees, especially in the field. A new optical sensor, which can automatically identify flying insects using machine learning, has been created to continuously monitor insect activity in the field. This study investigated the potential use of this sensor as a tool for monitoring the sublethal effects of pesticides on bumblebees. Bombus terrestris workers were orally exposed to field-realistic doses of imidacloprid. Two types of exposures were tested: acute and chronic. The flight activity of pesticide-exposed and non-exposed bumblebees was recorded, and the events of the insect flights recorded by the sensor were used in two ways: to extract the values of the wingbeat frequency and to train machine learning models. The results showed that the trained model was able to recognize differences between the events created by pesticide-exposed bumblebees and the control bumblebees. This study demonstrates the possibility of the optical sensor for use as a tool to monitor bees that have been exposed to sublethal doses of pesticides. The optical sensor can provide data that could be helpful in managing and, ideally, mitigating the decline of pollinators from one of their most major threats, pesticides.

More from our Archive