Effects of sublethal doses of fipronil on the behavior of the honeybee (Apis mellifera)

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Fipronil is a phenylpyrazole insecticide introduced for pest control, but it can also affect non-target insects such as honeybees. In insects, fipronil is known to block GABA receptors and to inhibit ionotropic glutamate-gated chloride channels, but the behavioral effects of low doses are not yet fully understood. We have studied the effect of sublethal doses of fipronil on the behavior of the honeybee (Apis mellifera) under controlled laboratory conditions. The drug was either administered orally or applied topically on the thorax. A significant reduction of sucrose sensitivity was observed for the dose of 1 ng/bee 1 h after a thoracic application. No significant effect on sucrose sensitivity was obtained with acute oral treatment. A lower dose of fipronil (0.5 ng/bee applied topically) impaired the olfactory learning of the honeybees. By contrast, locomotor activity was not affected. Our results suggest a particular vulnerability of the olfactory memory processes and sucrose perception to sublethal doses of fipronil in the honeybee. (c) 2005 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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