Dietary quercetin impacts the concentration of pesticides in honey bees
Journal article, 2021
Honey bees are important pollinators and are subject to numerous stressors, such as changing floral resources, parasites, and agrochemical exposure. Pesticide exposure has been linked to the decline in the global honey bee population. We have limited knowledge of the metabolic pathways and synergistic effects of xenobiotics in bees. Quercetin is one of the most abundant phytochemicals in plants and is therefore abundant in the honey bee diet. Quercetin can upregulate the detoxification system in honey bees; however, it is still unknown to what extent quercetin ingestion can reduce the content of absorbed pesticides. In this study, we investigated the effect of dietary quercetin on the contents of three pesticides in honey bees: imidacloprid (insecticide), tebuconazole (fungicide), and tau-fluvalinate (insecticide and acaricide). Bees were divided into two main groups and fed either quercetin-sucrose paste or only sucrose for 72 h. Thereafter, they were orally exposed to ∼10 ng/bee imidacloprid or contact-exposed to ∼0.9 μg/bee tau-fluvalinate or ∼5.2 μg/bee tebuconazole. After 1 h of oral exposure or 24 h of contact exposure, the bees were anaesthetised with CO2, sacrificed by freezing, and extracted with a validated QuEChERS method. Subsequently, the concentrations of the three pesticides and quercetin in the bees were determined with a triple quadrupole tandem mass spectrometer coupled to an HPLC system. No significant effect on the concentration of tebuconazole or tau-fluvalinate was observed in bees fed quercetin. Intake of quercetin led to a reduction in the concentration of imidacloprid in honey bees. Quercetin-rich plants may be exploited in future beekeeping.