Assessing the acute toxicity of insecticides to the buff-tailed bumblebee (Bombus terrestris audax)

Rebecca J. Reid, Bartlomiej J. Troczka, Laura Kor, Emma Randall, Martin S. Williamson, Linda M. Field, Ralf Nauen, Chris Bass*, T. G.Emyr Davies

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


The buff-tailed bumblebee, Bombus terrestris audax is an important pollinator within both landscape ecosystems and agricultural crops. During their lifetime bumblebees are regularly challenged by various environmental stressors including insecticides. Historically the honey bee (Apis mellifera spp.) has been used as an ‘indicator’ species for ‘standard’ ecotoxicological testing, but it has been suggested that it is not always a good proxy for other eusocial or solitary bees. To investigate this, the susceptibility of B. terrestris to selected pesticides within the neonicotinoid, pyrethroid and organophosphate classes was examined using acute insecticide bioassays. Acute oral and topical LD50 values for B. terrestris against these insecticides were broadly consistent with published results for A. mellifera. For the neonicotinoids, imidacloprid was highly toxic, but thiacloprid and acetamiprid were practically non-toxic. For pyrethroids, deltamethrin was highly toxic, but tau-fluvalinate only slightly toxic. For the organophosphates, chlorpyrifos was highly toxic, but coumaphos practically non-toxic. Bioassays using insecticides with common synergists enhanced the sensitivity of B. terrestris to several insecticides, suggesting detoxification enzymes may provide a level of protection against these compounds. The sensitivity of B. terrestris to compounds within three different insecticide classes is similar to that reported for honey bees, with marked variation in sensitivity to different insecticides within the same insecticide class observed in both species. This finding highlights the need to consider each compound within an insecticide class in isolation rather than extrapolating between different insecticides in the same class or sharing the same mode of action.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104562
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2020


  • Bumblebee
  • Differential toxicity
  • Neonicotinoids
  • Organophosphates
  • Pyrethroids

Cite this