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Agri-environment scheme nectar chemistry can suppress the social epidemiology of parasites in an important pollinator

Agri-environment scheme nectar chemistry can suppress the social epidemiology of parasites in an important pollinator

Folly, Arran J., Koch, Hauke, Farrell, Iain W., Stevenson, Philip C. ORCID: 0000-0002-0736-3619 and Brown, Mark J. F. (2021) Agri-environment scheme nectar chemistry can suppress the social epidemiology of parasites in an important pollinator. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 288 (1951):20210363. ISSN 0962-8452 (Print), 1471-2954 (Online) (doi:https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2021.0363)

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Abstract

Emergent infectious diseases are one of the main drivers of species loss. Emergent infection with the microsporidian Nosema bombi has been implicated in the population and range declines of a suite of North American bumblebees, a group of important pollinators. Previous work has shown that phytochemicals found in pollen and nectar can negatively impact parasites in individuals, but how this relates to social epidemiology and by extension whether plants can be effectively used as pollinator disease management strategies remains unexplored. Here we undertook a comprehensive screen of UK agri-environment scheme plants, a programme designed to benefit pollinators and wider biodiversity in agricultural settings, for phytochemicals in pollen and nectar using liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry. Caffeine, which occurs across a range of plant families, was identified in the nectar of Sainfoin (Onobrychis viciifolia), a component of UK agri-environment schemes and a major global crop. We showed that caffeine significantly reduces N. bombi infection intensity, both prophylactically and therapeutically, in individual bumblebees (Bombus terrestris), and, for the first time, that such effects impact social epidemiology, with colonies reared from wild caught queens having both lower prevalence and intensity of infection. Furthermore, infection prevalence was lower in foraging bumblebees from caffeine treated colonies, suggesting a likely reduction in population-level transmission. Combined, these results show that N. bombi is less likely to be transmitted intra-colonially when bumblebees consume naturally-available caffeine, and that this may in turn reduce environmental prevalence. Consequently, our results demonstrate that floral phytochemicals at ecologically relevant concentrations can impact pollinator disease epidemiology and that planting strategies that increase floral abundance to support biodiversity could be co-opted as disease management tools.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: © 2021 The Authors. Published by the Royal Society under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/, which permits unrestricted use, provided the original author and source are credited.
Uncontrolled Keywords: Sainfoin; Caffeine; Bumblebee; Phytochemical; Emergent Infectious disease; Microsporidia
Subjects: S Agriculture > S Agriculture (General)
Faculty / Department / Research Group: Faculty of Engineering & Science
Faculty of Engineering & Science > Natural Resources Institute
Faculty of Engineering & Science > Natural Resources Institute > Agriculture, Health & Environment Department
Faculty of Engineering & Science > Natural Resources Institute > Chemical Ecology Research Group
Last Modified: 06 Jul 2021 14:26
Selected for GREAT 2016: None
Selected for GREAT 2017: None
Selected for GREAT 2018: None
Selected for GREAT 2019: None
Selected for REF2021: None
URI: http://gala.gre.ac.uk/id/eprint/32665

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