Impact of copper sulfate on survival, behavior, midgut morphology, and antioxidant activity of Partamona helleri (Apidae: Meliponini)

Environ Sci Pollut Res Int. 2021 Aug 27. doi: 10.1007/s11356-021-16109-1. Online ahead of print.


Copper sulfate (CuSO4) is widely used in agriculture as a pesticide and foliar fertilizer. However, the possible environmental risks associated with CuSO4 use, particularly related to pollinating insects, have been poorly studied. In this study, we evaluated both lethal and sublethal effects of CuSO4 on the stingless bee Partamona helleri. Foragers were orally exposed to five concentrations of CuSO4 (5000, 1666.7, 554.2, 183.4, 58.4 μg mL-1), and the concentration killing 50% (LC50) was estimated. This concentration (142.95 μg mL-1) was subsequently used in behavioral, midgut morphology, and antioxidant activity analyses. Bee mortality increased with the ingestion of increasing concentrations of CuSO4. Ingestion at the estimated LC50 resulted in altered walking behavior and damage to the midgut epithelium and peritrophic matrix of bees. Furthermore, the LC50 increased the catalase or superoxide dismutase activities and levels of the lipid peroxidation biomarker malondialdehyde. Furthermore, the in situ detection of caspase-3 and LC3, proteins related to apoptosis and autophagy, respectively, revealed that these processes are intensified in the midgut of treated bees. These data show that the ingestion of CuSO4 can have considerable sublethal effects on the walking behavior and midgut of stingless bees, and therefore could pose potential risks to pollinators including native bees. Graphical abstract.

Keywords: Bioassays; CuSO4; Heavy metal; LC50; Stingless bee; Toxicological effects.