Why bees are so vulnerable to environmental stressors

Simon Klein, Amélie Cabirol, Jean-Marc Devaud, Andrew B. Barron, Mathieu Lihoreau*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

87 Citations (Scopus)


Bee populations are declining in the industrialized world, raising concerns for the sustainable pollination of crops. Pesticides, pollutants, parasites, diseases, and malnutrition have all been linked to this problem. We consider here neurobiological, ecological, and evolutionary reasons why bees are particularly vulnerable to these environmental stressors. Central-place foraging on flowers demands advanced capacities of learning, memory, and navigation. However, even at low intensity levels, many stressors damage the bee brain, disrupting key cognitive functions needed for effective foraging, with dramatic consequences for brood development and colony survival. We discuss how understanding the relationships between the actions of stressors on the nervous system, individual cognitive impairments, and colony decline can inform constructive interventions to sustain bee populations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)268-278
Number of pages11
JournalTrends in Ecology and Evolution
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2017


  • brain functions
  • central-place foraging
  • cognition
  • environmental stressors
  • pesticides
  • pollinators

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