Large-scale pesticide application poses a major threat to bee biodiversity by causing a decline in bee populations that, in turn, compromises ecosystem maintenance and agricultural productivity. Biopesticides are considered an alternative to synthetic pesticides with a focus on reducing potential detrimental effects to beneficial organisms such as bees. The production of healthy queen stingless bees is essential for the survival and reproduction of hives, although it remains unknown whether biopesticides influence stingless bee reproduction. In the present study, we investigated the effects of the biopesticide azadirachtin on the survival, behavior, morphology, development, and reproduction of queens of the stingless bee Partamona helleri (Friese, 1900). The neonicotinoid imidacloprid was used as a toxic reference standard. Queens were orally exposed in vitro to a contaminated diet (containing azadirachtin and imidacloprid) during development. Azadirachtin resulted in reduced survival, similarly to imidacloprid, altered development time, caused deformations, and reduced the size of the queens' reproductive organs. All of these factors could potentially compromise colony survival. Results from the present study showed azadirachtin posed a toxicological hazard to P. helleri queens.
Keywords: Azadirachtin; Meliponini; Neem; Pollinators conservation; Stingless bees; Sublethal effects.
Copyright © 2018 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.