Comparative toxicity of acaricides to honey bee (Hymenoptera: Apidae) workers and queens

J Econ Entomol. 2012 Dec;105(6):1895-902. doi: 10.1603/ec12175.


Acaricides are used to treat honey bee (Apis mellifera L.) colonies to control the varroa mite (Varroa destructor Anderson & Trueman), a worldwide threat to honey bee health. Although acaricides control a serious honey bee parasite and mitigate bee loss, they may cause harm to bees as well. We topically applied five acaricides, each with a different mode of action, to young adult queen and worker bees to generate dose-response curves and LD50. Twenty-four hours after treatment, queens were found to be three-times more tolerant of tau-fluvalinate and six-times more tolerant of thymol than workers when adjusted for body weight differences between workers (108 mg) and queens (180 mg). Queens survived the highest administered doses of fenpyroximate (1620 microg/g) and coumaphos (2700 microg/g) indicating that queens are at least 11-fold more tolerant of coumaphos and at least 54-fold more tolerant of fenpyroximate than workers. However, queens treated with as little as 54 microg/g of fenpyroximate exhibited reduced survival over 6 wk after treatment. Amitraz was the only acaricide tested for which queens were not more tolerant than workers. The striking difference in acaricide tolerance of queen and worker honey bees suggests physiological differences in how the two castes are affected by xenobiotics.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acaricides / toxicity*
  • Animals
  • Bees / drug effects*
  • Female
  • Lethal Dose 50
  • Longevity / drug effects


  • Acaricides