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Thiamethoxam as an inadvertent anti-aphrodisiac in male bees

Cite this dataset

Straub, Lars; Strobl, Verena (2022). Thiamethoxam as an inadvertent anti-aphrodisiac in male bees [Dataset]. Dryad.


Sexual reproduction is common to almost all multi-cellular organisms and can be compromised by environmental pollution, thereby affecting entire populations. Even though there is consensus that neonicotinoid insecticides can impact non-target animal fertility, their possible impact on male mating success is currently unknown in bees. Here, we show that sublethal exposure to a neonicotinoid significantly reduces both mating success and sperm traits of male bumblebees. Sexually mature male Bombus terrestris exposed to a field-realistic concentration of thiamethoxam (20 ng g-1) or not (controls) were mated with virgin gynes in the laboratory. The results confirm sublethal negative effects of thiamethoxam on sperm quantity and viability. While the latency to mate was reduced, mating success was significantly impaired in thiamethoxam-exposed males by 32% probably due to female choice. Gynes mated by exposed males revealed impaired sperm traits compared to their respective controls, which may lead to severe constraints for colony fitness. Our laboratory findings demonstrate for the first time that neonicotinoid insecticides can negatively affect male mating success in bees. Given that holds true for the field, this provides a plausible mechanism contributing to declines of wild bee populations globally. The widespread prophylactic use of neonicotinoids may therefore have previously overlooked inadvertent anti-aphrodisiac effects on non-target animals, thereby limiting conservation efforts.