Initial Exposure of Wax Foundation to Agrochemicals Causes Negligible Effects on the Growth and Winter Survival of Incipient Honey Bee (Apis mellifera) Colonies
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Widespread use of agrochemicals in the U.S. has led to nearly universal contamination of beeswax in honey bee hives. The most commonly found agrochemicals in wax include beekeeper-applied miticides containing tau-fluvalinate, coumaphos, or amitraz, and field-applied pesticides containing chlorothalonil or chlorpyrifos. Wax contaminated with these pesticides negatively affects the reproductive quality of queens and drones. However, the synergistic effects of these pesticides on the growth and survival of incipient colonies remain understudied. We established new colonies using frames with wax foundation that was pesticide free or contaminated with field-relevant concentrations of amitraz alone, a combination of tau-fluvalinate and coumaphos, or a combination of chlorothalonil and chlorpyrifos. Colony growth was assessed by estimating comb and brood production, food storage, and adult bee population during a colony's first season. We also measured colony overwintering survival. We found no significant differences in colony growth or survivorship between colonies established on pesticide-free vs. pesticide-laden wax foundation. However, colonies that had Varroa destructor levels above 3% in the fall were more likely to die over winter than those with levels below this threshold, indicating that high Varroa infestation in the fall played a more important role than initial pesticide exposure of wax foundation in the winter survival of newly established colonies.
author list (cited authors)
Payne, A. N., Walsh, E. M., & Rangel, J.