Evidence is accumulating that commonly used pesticides are linked to decline of pollinator populations; adverse effects of three neonicotinoids on bees have led to bans on their use across the European Union. Developing insecticides that pose negligible risks to beneficial organisms such as honeybees is desirable and timely. One strategy is to use recombinant fusion proteins containing neuroactive peptides/proteins linked to a ‘carrier’ protein that confers oral toxicity. Hv1a/GNA (Galanthus nivalis agglutinin), containing an insect-specific spider venom calcium channel blocker (ω-hexatoxin-Hv1a) linked to snowdrop lectin (GNA) as a ‘carrier’, is an effective oral biopesticide towards various insect pests. Effects of Hv1a/GNA towards a non-target species, Apis mellifera, were assessed through a thorough early-tier risk assessment. Following feeding, honeybees internalized Hv1a/GNA, which reached the brain within 1 h after exposure. However, survival was only slightly affected by ingestion (LD50 > 100 µg bee−1) or injection of fusion protein. Bees fed acute (100 µg bee−1) or chronic (0.35 mg ml−1) doses of Hv1a/GNA and trained in an olfactory learning task had similar rates of learning and memory to no-pesticide controls. Larvae were unaffected, being able to degrade Hv1a/GNA. These tests suggest that Hv1a/GNA is unlikely to cause detrimental effects on honeybees, indicating that atracotoxins targeting calcium channels are potential alternatives to conventional pesticides.
- Received March 13, 2014.
- Accepted May 7, 2014.
© 2014 The Authors. Published by the Royal Society under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/, which permits unrestricted use, provided the original author and source are credited.