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Impacts of pesticide exposure on insect pollinators

A large part of our research has been to investigate how exposure to sublethal concentrations of pesticides (typically encountered in the wild) affects insect pollinators.


We study effects at multiple biological levels of organisation, from gene function to physiology, behaviour and foraging performance and how together these effects translate to impacts on reproductive output, fitness & ecosystem functional roles.

Using bumblebees as a focal study system, our projects have included looking at the effects of pesticide exposure on:

1) Gene expression

2) Brain development 

3) Body & colony temperatures

4) Locomotory behaviours, including flight

5) Learning behaviours

5) Foraging performance & choices

6) Colony development & fitness

This work has influenced how organisations such as the European Food Standards Agency (EFSA) consider pesticide risk.


Selected publications:

Smith DB, Arce AN, Ramos Rodrigues A, Bischoff PH, Burris D, Ahmed F & Gill RJ (2020) Insecticide exposure during brood or early-adult development reduces brain growth and impairs adult learning in bumblebees. Proc. Roy. Soc. B. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2019.2442 

Kenna D*, Cooley H*, Pretelli I, Ramos Rodrigues A, Gill SD & Gill RJ (2019) Pesticide exposure affects flight dynamics and reduces flight endurance in bumblebees. Ecology & Evolution

Colgan TJ*, Fletcher I*, Arce AN*, Gill RJ, Ramos Rodrigues A, Stolle E, Chittka L & Wurm Y (2019) Caste- and pesticide-specific effects of neonicotinoid pesticide exposure on gene expression in bumblebees. Molecular Ecology

Arce AN, Ramos Rodrigues A, Yu J, Colgan TJ, Wurm Y & Gill RJ (2018) Foraging bumblebees acquire a preference for neonicotinoid treated food with prolonged exposure’ . Proc. Roy. Soc. B

Arce AN, David TI, Randall EL, Rodrigues AR, Colgan TJ, Wurm Y & Gill RJ (2017). Impact of controlled neonicotinoid exposure on bumblebees in a realistic field setting. Journal of Applied Ecology, 54, 1199-1208


Samuelson EEW, Chen-Wishart ZP, Gill RJ & Leadbeater E (2016) Effect of acute pesticide exposure on bee spatial working memory using an analogue of the radial-arm maze. Scientific Reports, 6, 38957


Gill RJ & Raine NE (2014) Chronic impairment of bumblebee natural foraging behaviour induced by sublethal pesticide exposure. Functional Ecology, 28, 1459-1471


Gill RJ, Ramos-Rodriguez O & Raine NE (2012) Combined pesticide exposure severely affects individual- and colony-level traits in bees. Nature, 491, 105-108

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