Lethal and sublethal side-effect assessment supports a more benign profile of spinetoram compared with spinosad in the bumblebee Bombus terrestris

Pest Manag Sci. 2011 May;67(5):541-7. doi: 10.1002/ps.2093. Epub 2011 Jan 11.


Background: This study was undertaken to identify the potential side effects of the novel naturalyte insecticide spinetoram in comparison with spinosad on the bumblebee Bombus terrestris L. The potential lethal effects together with the ecologically relevant sublethal effects on aspects of bumblebee reproduction and foraging behaviour were evaluated. Bumblebee workers were exposed via direct contact with wet and dry residues under laboratory conditions to spinetoram at different concentrations, starting from the maximum field recommended concentration (MFRC) and then different dilutions (1/10, 1/100, 1/1000 and 1/10 000 of the MFRC), and compared with spinosad. In addition, the side effects via oral exposure in supplemented sugar water were assessed.

Results: Direct contact of B. terrestris workers with wet residues of spinosad and spinetoram showed spinetoram to be approximately 52 times less toxic than spinosad, while exposure to dry residues of spinetoram was about 8 times less toxic than exposure to those of spinosad. Oral treatment for 72 h (acute) indicated that spinetoram is about 4 times less toxic to B. terrestris workers compared with spinosad, while exposure for a longer period (i.e. 11 weeks) showed spinetoram to be 24 times less toxic. In addition, oral exposure to the two spinosyns resulted in detrimental sublethal effects on bumblebee reproduction. The no observed effect concentration (NOEC) for spinosad was 1/1000 of the MFRC, and 1/100 of the MFRC for spinetoram. Comparison between the chronic exposure bioassays assessing the sublethal effects on nest reproduction, with and without allowing for foraging behaviour, showed that the respective NOEC values for spinosad and spinetoram were similar over the two bioassays, indicating that there were no adverse effects by either spinosyn on the foraging of B. terrestris workers.

Conclusion: Overall, the present results indicate that the use of spinetoram is safer for bumblebees by direct contact and oral exposure than the use of spinosad, and therefore it can be applied safely in combination with B. terrestris. Another important conclusion is that the present data provide strong evidence that neither spinosyn has a negative effect on the foraging behaviour of these beneficial insects. However, before drawing final conclusions, spinetoram and spinosad should also be evaluated in more realistic field-related situations for the assessment of potentially deleterious effects on foraging behaviour with the use of queenright colonies of B. terrestris.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bees / drug effects*
  • Bees / physiology
  • Drug Combinations
  • Insect Control / methods*
  • Insecticides / toxicity*
  • Macrolides / toxicity*
  • Male
  • Reproduction / drug effects


  • Drug Combinations
  • Insecticides
  • Macrolides
  • spinosad
  • spinetoram