Botanical and synthetic pesticides alter the flower visitation rates of pollinator bees in Neotropical melon fields.


Departamento de Entomologia, Universidade Federal de Viçosa, Viçosa, MG, 36570-000, Brazil. Electronic address: [Email]


The ecological and economic contributions of pollinator bees to agricultural production have been threatened by the inappropriate and excessive use of pesticides. These pesticides are often applied in areas with ecological peculiarities (e.g., the Neotropical savannah-like region termed as Cerrado) that were not considered during the product development. Here, we conducted field experiments with melon (i.e., Cucumis melo L.) plants cultivated under Brazilian Cerrado conditions and evaluated the impacts of botanical (i.e., neem-based insecticide) and synthetic (i.e., the pyrethroid insecticide deltamethrin and the fungicides thiophanate-methyl and chlorothalonil) pesticides on the flower visitation rates of naturally occurring pollinator bees. Our results revealed that both honey bees (i.e., Apis mellifera L.) and non-Apis bees visited melon flowers and the intensity of bee visitation was moderately correlated with yield parameters (e.g., number of marketable fruits and fruit yield). Pesticide treatments differentially affected bee species. For instance, Plebeia sp. bees were not affected by any pesticide treatment, whereas both A. mellifera and Halictus sp. bees showed reduced visitation intensity after the application of deltamethrin or neem-based insecticides. Fungicide treatment alone did not influence the bee's visitation intensity. Deltamethrin-treated melon fields produced significantly lighter marketable fruits, and the melon yield was significantly lower in melon fields treated with the neem-based insecticide. Thus, our findings with such pollinator bees reinforce the idea that field applications of botanical pesticides may represent as risky as the applications of synthetic compounds, indicating that these alternative products should be submitted to risk assessments comparable to those required for synthetic products.


Botanical insecticides,Halictus sp.,Plebeia sp.,Pollination services,Trigona sp,