Free access
Volume 35, Number 3, May-June 2004
Page(s) 293 - 300
Apidologie 35 (2004) 293-300
DOI: 10.1051/apido:2004016

Pollen consumption in honey bee larvae: a step forward in the risk assessment of transgenic plants

Dirk Babendreiera, Nicole Kalberera, Jörg Romeisa, Peter Flurib and Franz Biglera

a   Agroscope, FAL Reckenholz, Swiss Federal Research Station for Agroecology and Agriculture, Reckenholzstr. 191, 8046 Zürich, Switzerland
b   Agroscope, FAL Liebefeld-Posieux, Swiss Federal Dairy Research Station, Swiss Bee Research Centre, Schwarzenburgstr. 161, 3003 Bern, Switzerland

(Received 14 April 2003; revised 6 June 2003; accepted 11 August 2003)

Abstract - In order to assess the potential impacts of transgenic plants on larvae of the honey bee, Apis mellifera, information on pollen consumption is needed. We here report on experiments that were conducted with small bee colonies kept in field cages (8 × 14 m) containing only flowering maize plants as protein source. Fully grown worker bee larvae were found to contain between 1720 and 2310 maize pollen grains in their gut before defecation, corresponding to 1.52-2.04 mg of pollen consumed per larva. On average, 74.5% of pollen grains were completely digested while 23.3% were partially digested and 2.2% remained undigested. Our data indicate that the contribution of the protein by directly feeding larvae with pollen is less than 5% in relation to the total amount of protein necessary for complete larval development. We suggest that our measurement for pollen consumption should be taken into account when establishing dose regimes to assess the risk that transgenic plants pose for honey bee larvae.

Key words: Apis mellifera / pollen consumption / transgenic plant / agrochemical / maize / risk assessment

Corresponding author: Dirk Babendreier

© INRA, EDP Sciences, DIB, AGIB 2004