Wings as a new route of exposure to pesticides in the honey bee

Environ Toxicol Chem. 2015 Sep;34(9):1983-8. doi: 10.1002/etc.3014. Epub 2015 Jun 30.


In pesticide risk assessment, estimating the routes and levels of exposure is critical. For honey bees subjected to pesticide spray, toxicity is assessed by thorax contact to account for all possible contact exposures. In the present study, the authors tested 6 active substances with different hydrophobicity. For the first time, the authors demonstrated that it is possible to induce mortality by pesticide contact with only the wings of the honey bee. The toxicities induced by contact with the wings and thorax were similar, with the wing median lethal dose (LD50) being 0.99 to 2.23 times higher than that of the thorax. This finding demonstrates that the wings represent a relevant route of exposure in the honey bee. In a second approach, the authors estimated the air volume displaced by the wings during 1 beating cycle to be 0.51 ± 0.03 cm(3), which corresponds to a volume of 116.8 ± 5.8 cm(3) s(-1) at a wing beat frequency of 230 Hz. The authors then tested realistic scenarios of exposure for bees flying through a pesticide cloud at different concentrations. In the worst-case scenario, the dose accumulated during the flight reached 525 ng bee(-1) s(-1). These results show that the procedure used to assess the risk posed by contact with pesticides could be improved by accounting for wing exposure.

Keywords: Honey bee; Neonicotinoids; Pyrethroids; Risk assessment; Wing exposure.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bees / drug effects*
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Environmental Exposure
  • Lethal Dose 50
  • Pesticides / toxicity*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Wings, Animal / drug effects


  • Pesticides