Differential physiological effects of neonicotinoid insecticides on honey bees: A comparison between Apis mellifera and Apis cerana

Pestic Biochem Physiol. 2017 Aug;140:1-8. doi: 10.1016/j.pestbp.2017.06.010. Epub 2017 Jun 20.


Acute toxicities (LD50s) of imidacloprid and clothianidin to Apis mellifera and A. cerana were investigated. Changing patterns of immune-related gene expressions and the activities of four enzymes between the two bee species were compared and analyzed after exposure to sublethal doses of insecticides. Results indicated that A. cerana was more sensitive to imidacloprid and clothianidin than A. mellifera. The acute oral LD50 values of imidacloprid and clothianidin for A. mellifera were 8.6 and 2.0ng/bee, respectively, whereas the corresponding values for A. cerana were 2.7 and 0.5ng/bee. The two bee species possessed distinct abilities to mount innate immune response against neonicotinoids. After 48h of imidacloprid treatment, carboxylesterase (CCE), prophenol oxidase (PPO), and acetylcholinesterase (AChE) activities were significantly downregulated in A. mellifera but were upregulated in A. cerana. Glutathione-S-transferase (GST) activity was significantly elevated in A. mellifera at 48h after exposure to imidacloprid, but no significant change was observed in A. cerana. AChE was downregulated in both bee species at three different time points during clothianidin exposure, and GST activities were upregulated in both species exposed to clothianidin. Different patterns of immune-related gene expression and enzymatic activities implied distinct detoxification and immune responses of A. cerana and A. mellifera to imidacloprid and clothianidin.

Keywords: Apis cerana; Apis mellifera; Clothianidin; Detoxification; Imidacloprid; Immunity.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bees / drug effects*
  • Guanidines / chemistry
  • Guanidines / toxicity*
  • Histocompatibility Antigens
  • Insecticides / chemistry
  • Insecticides / toxicity*
  • Neonicotinoids / chemistry
  • Neonicotinoids / toxicity*
  • Nitro Compounds / chemistry
  • Nitro Compounds / toxicity*
  • Species Specificity
  • Thiazoles / chemistry
  • Thiazoles / toxicity*


  • Guanidines
  • Histocompatibility Antigens
  • Insecticides
  • Neonicotinoids
  • Nitro Compounds
  • Thiazoles
  • clothianidin
  • imidacloprid