The Effect of Olfactory Exposure to Non-Insecticidal Agrochemicals on Bumblebee Foraging Behavior
Declines in bumblebee populations have led to investigations into potential causes – including agrochemical effects on bumblebee physiology. The indirect effects of agrochemicals (i.e. behavior modulation) have been postulated, but rarely directly tested. Olfactory information is critical in mediating bumblebee-floral interactions. As agrochemicals emit volatiles, they may indirectly modify foraging behavior. We tested the effects of olfactory contamination of floral odor by agrochemical scent on foraging activity of Bombus impatiens using two behavioral paradigms: localization of food within a maze and forced-choice preference. The presence of a fungicide decreased bumblebees’ ability to locate food within a maze. Additionally, bumblebees preferred to forage in non-contaminated feeding chambers when offered a choice between control and either fertilizer- or fungicide-scented chambers.