Oral Presentation Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry Australasia 2021

Can bees detect PFOS? (#130)

Carolyn A Sonter 1 , Romina Rader 1 , Matthew Tighe 1 , Susan C Wilson 1
  1. University of New England, Armidale NSW, ARMIDALE, NSW, Australia

Bees provide essential pollination services to managed and wild ecosystems but are threatened globally due to multiple stressors, including exposure to contaminants. Perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) is a widely detected and persistent contaminant that accumulates and biomagnifies in food chains. Perfluorooctane sulfonate has been detected in honey and adversely affects honey bee (Apis mellifera) colonies at ≥ 20 µg L-1 in sugar syrup. Honey bees appear to have the capacity to avoid or be attracted to certain organic contaminants (e.g. neonicotinoid pesticides) and this could mediate and possibly enhance exposure.  However, their capacity to detect, avoid or be attracted to PFOS is not known. In this study the behaviour of individual bees to PFOS was studied in Y-mazes using unspiked and PFOS spiked sugar syrup, at concentrations of 0.07 and 100, 200 and 300 µg L-1, which include water quality guideline concentrations and concentrations detected in water at contaminated sites. Bee activity was recorded for 10 minutes, specifically observing behaviour via choice experiments, consumption duration and consumption traits pre, during and post drinking. The bees showed PFOS avoidance and a higher incidence of tasting without drinking only at PFOS concentrations of ≥ 200 µg L-1. In addition, those bees that accessed the PFOS spiked sugar syrup showed a shorter consumption time, but behaviour prior to and after drinking did not change. This work demonstrates that bees access PFOS contaminated resources with no demonstrated avoidance at concentrations significantly exceeding values currently considered toxic. This has implications for pollinator services and potentially human health in contaminated areas.