Exposure to a biopesticide interferes with sucrose responsiveness and learning in honey bees

Daniele Carlesso, Stefania Smargiassi, Lara Sassoli, Federico Cappa, Rita Cervo, David Baracchi*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    9 Citations (Scopus)
    30 Downloads (Pure)


    The entomopathogenic fungus Beauveria bassiana is a widely used biopesticide that is considered as an effective alternative to classical agrochemicals. B. bassiana is thought to be safe for pollinators although little is known about its side-effects on pollinators’ behaviour and cognition. Here, we focused on honey bees and used the proboscis extension response (PER) protocol to assess whether B. bassiana affects individual sucrose responsiveness, non-associative and associative olfactory learning and memory. Fungus-treated bees displayed an enhanced sucrose responsiveness, which could not be explained by metabolic alterations. Strikingly, exposed bees were twice as inconsistent as controls in response to sucrose, showing PER to lower but not to higher sucrose concentrations. Exposed bees habituated less to sucrose and had a better acquisition performance in the conditioning phase than controls. Further, neither mid- nor long-term memory were affected by the fungus. As sucrose responsiveness is the main determinant of division of foraging labour, these changes might unsettle the numerical ratio between the sub-castes of foragers leading to suboptimal foraging. Although the use of biocontrol strategies should be preferred over chemical pesticides, careful assessment of their side-effects is crucial before claiming that they are safe for pollinators.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number19929
    Pages (from-to)1-12
    Number of pages12
    JournalScientific Reports
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 16 Nov 2020


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