Image_1_Social Buffering of Pesticides in Bumblebees: Agent-Based Modeling of the Effects of Colony Size and Neonicotinoid Exposure on Behavior Within Nests.JPEG

Neonicotinoids are a globally prevalent class of pesticides that can negatively affect bees and the pollination services they provide. While there is evidence suggesting that colony size may play an important role in mitigating neonicotinoid exposure in bees, mechanisms underlying these effects are not well understood. Here, a recently developed agent-based computational model is used to investigate how the effects of sub-lethal neonicotinoid exposure on intranest behavior of bumblebees (Bombus impatiens) are modulated by colony size. Simulations from the model, parameterized using empirical data on bumblebee workers exposed to imidacloprid (a common neonicotinoid pesticide), suggest that colony size has significant effects on neonicotinoid-sensitivity within bumblebee nests. Specifically, differences are reduced between treated and untreated workers in larger colonies for several key aspects of behavior within nests. Our results suggest that changes in both number of workers and nest architecture may contribute to making larger colonies less sensitive to pesticide exposure.