Reliance on the honey bee as a surrogate organism for risk assessment performed on other bees is widely challenged due to differences in phenology, life history, and sensitivity to pesticides between bee species. Consequently, there is a need to develop validated methods for assessing toxicity in non-Apis bees including bumble bees. The usefulness of small-scale, queenless colonies, termed microcolonies, has not been fully investigated for hazard assessment. Using the insect growth regulator diflubenzuron as a reference toxicant, we monitored microcolony development from egg laying to drone emergence using the Eastern bumble bee Bombus impatiens (C.), a non-Apis species native to North America. Microcolonies were monitored following dietary exposure to diflubenzuron (nominal concentrations: 0.1, 1, 10, 100, and 1,000 µg/liter). Microcolony syrup and pollen consumption was significantly reduced by diflubenzuron exposure. Pupal cell production was also significantly decreased at the highest diflubenzuron concentration assessed. Ultimately, diflubenzuron inhibited drone production in a concentration-dependent manner and a 42-d 50% inhibitory concentration (IC50) was determined. None of the dietary concentrations of diflubenzuron tested affected adult worker survival, or average drone weight. These data strengthen the foundation for use of this methodology, and provide valuable information for B. impatiens; however, more work is required to better understand the utility of the bumble bee microcolony model for pesticide hazard assessment.
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Vol. 49 • No. 1