Drone exposure to the systemic insecticide Fipronil indirectly impairs queen reproductive potential

Sci Rep. 2016 Aug 23;6:31904. doi: 10.1038/srep31904.


A species that requires sexual reproduction but cannot reproduce is doomed to extinction. The important increasing loss of species emphasizes the ecological significance of elucidating the effects of environmental stressors, such as pesticides, on reproduction. Despite its special reproductive behavior, the honey bee was selected as a relevant and integrative environmental model because of its constant and diverse exposure to many stressors due to foraging activity. The widely used insecticide Fipronil, the use of which is controversial because of its adverse effects on honey bees, was chosen to expose captive drones in hives via syrup contaminated at 0.1 μg/L and gathered by foragers. Such environmental exposure led to decreased spermatozoa concentration and sperm viability coupled with an increased sperm metabolic rate, resulting in drone fertility impairment. Subsequently, unexposed queens inseminated with such sperm exhibited fewer spermatozoa with lower viability in their spermatheca, leaving no doubt about the detrimental consequences for the reproductive potential of queens, which are key for colony sustainability. These findings suggest that pesticides could contribute to declining honey bee populations through fertility impairment, as exemplified by Fipronil. More broadly, reproductive disorders should be taken into consideration when investigating the decline of other species.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bees / drug effects*
  • Bees / physiology
  • Environmental Pollutants / toxicity*
  • Female
  • Fertility / drug effects
  • Insecticides / toxicity
  • Male
  • Pyrazoles / toxicity*
  • Reproduction / drug effects
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal / drug effects*
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal / physiology
  • Spermatozoa / drug effects
  • Spermatozoa / physiology


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Insecticides
  • Pyrazoles
  • fipronil