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Fungivorous mites enhance stingless bee health and their resistance to pesticides

A recent scientific publication, led by Sao Paulo State University in collaboration with the University of Turin, demonstrates that fungivorous mites improve the performance of stingless bees even when exposed to pesticides


Stingless bees, widely present in neotropical areas such as Brazil, are the major group of eusocial bees in the world. They live in perennial colonies that typically contain dozens to thousands of individuals. They play an essential role as crop pollinators and have been considered for inclusion in pesticide risk assessments. There is a remarkable evolutionary relationship between stingless bees and microorganisms: bacteria, fungi, and yeasts play fundamental positive roles to improve bee nutrition and protect them from harmful microorganisms.


The stingless bee Scaptotrigona sp. larvae have mutualistic associations with the fungus Zygosaccharomyces sp. (Paludo et al, 2018).


A newly published research, led by the Laboratory of Ecotoxicology and Bee Conservation (Sao Paulo State University, Brazil) with Annelise Rosa-Fontana and in collaboration with Prof. Tosi by the Bee Health and Behaviour Lab (University of Turin), demonstrated that the coexistence with P. (N.) alvearii influences stingless bee larvae survivorship, development, and resistance to pesticides, showing a stable mutualistic coexistence.

Video of a brood comb of the stingless bee Scaptotrigona postica. The brood comb shows the coexistence between the bee larvae and the Proctotydaeus (Neotydeolus) alverii mites. The small white points moving quickly are the mites: they move within and among the brood cells.


Bees associated with the mites showed higher larval survivorship rates, even if pesticide-treated, and revealed a significant influence in developmental time and body size. The researchers tested two pesticides: dimethoate, a standard for toxicity tests, and thiamethoxam, widely used in neotropical crops.


This study represents the first approach to stingless bee responses to the coexistence of fungivorous mites inside bee brood cells, suggesting that these mites play a beneficial role in stingless bee health, also when exposed to chemical stress. This newly discovered interaction allow exploring new methods to improve stingless bees health.



Reference

Rosa-Fontana, A. S., Dorigo, A. S., Malaquias, J. B., Pachú, J. K., Nocelli, R. C., Tosi, S., Malaspina, O. (2022). Fungivorous mites enhance the survivorship and development of stingless bees even when exposed to pesticides. Scientific Reports, 12(1), 20948. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-022-25482-x https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-022-25482-x 

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