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Herbivore defence compounds occur in pollen and reduce bumblebee colony fitness

Herbivore defence compounds occur in pollen and reduce bumblebee colony fitness

Arnold, Sarah E.J. ORCID: 0000-0001-7345-0529, Idrovo, M. Eduardo Peralta, Arias, Luis J. Lomas, Belmain, Steven R. ORCID: 0000-0002-5590-7545 and Stevenson, Philip C. ORCID: 0000-0002-0736-3619 (2014) Herbivore defence compounds occur in pollen and reduce bumblebee colony fitness. Journal of Chemical Ecology, 40 (8). pp. 878-881. ISSN 0098-0331 (Print), 1573-1561 (Online) (doi:

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Herbivory defence chemicals in plants can affect higher trophic levels such as predators and parasitoids, but the impact on pollinators has been overlooked. We show that defensive plant chemicals can damage pollinator fitness when expressed in pollen. Crop lupins (Lupinus species from Europe and South America) accumulate toxic quinolizidine alkaloids in vegetative tissues, conferring resistance to herbivorous pests such as aphids. We identified the alkaloid lupanine and its derivatives in lupin pollen, and then provided this compound at ecologically-relevant concentrations to queenless microcolonies of bumblebees (Bombus terrestris) in their pollen to determine how foraging on these crops may impact bee colony health and fitness. Fewer males were produced by microcolonies provided with lupanine-treated pollen and they were significantly smaller than controls. This impact on males was not linked to preference as workers willingly fed lupanine-treated pollen to larvae, even though it was deleterious to colony health. Agricultural systems comprising large monocultures of crops bred for herbivore resistance can expose generalist pollinators to deleterious levels of plant compounds, and the broader environmental impacts of crop resistance must thus be considered.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: [1] The version of the paper attached is the Author's Accepted Manuscipt (AAM) version and is permitted under Springer's self-archiving policy to be hosted on GALA. Please note that the final publication is available at Springer via
Uncontrolled Keywords: natural resistance, lupin, lupanine, pollination, Bombus terrestris
Subjects: S Agriculture > SB Plant culture
Faculty / School / Research Centre / Research Group: Faculty of Engineering & Science > Natural Resources Institute
Faculty of Engineering & Science > Natural Resources Institute > Chemical Ecology Research Group
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Last Modified: 27 Apr 2020 15:48

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