PloS one

Non-detection of honeybee hive contamination following Vespula wasp baiting with protein containing fipronil.

PMID 30372501


Introduced wasps (Vespula germanica and V. vulgaris) are costly invertebrate pests in New Zealand, with large impacts on the local ecology and economy. Wasps eat honeybees (Apis mellifera), which has potentially devastating effects on hive health, as well as agricultural and horticultural industries. Vespex bait, which contains fipronil in a proteinaceous carrier, has recently been introduced for wasp control. In over a decade of reported trials, honeybees have never been observed foraging on Vespex, likely because the bait contains no sugars to serve as a bee food source. However, the potential for the control agent fipronil to enter beehives has not been tested. Therefore, here, we investigated this using a liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry assay of fipronil and two of its environmental breakdown and metabolic derivatives, fipronil desulfinyl and fipronil sulfone. We did not detect fipronil in any of the worker bee, bee larva, honey or pollen samples (n = 120 per product) collected from 30 hives over a 2-year period. Furthermore, although we detected fipronil desulfinyl in one honeybee sample, this is thought to have originated from a single individual, representing a rare occurrence of intoxication, and there was no evidence that Vespex was the toxicant source. There was also no evidence of trophallactic transfer of fipronil or its derivatives in any of the hives sampled. Previous studies have reported the impairment of individual bee performance at fipronil doses similar to the detection limit of our study. However, our results provide confidence that if undetectable intoxication was occurring, it would involve an acute exposure for those few individuals affected, with minimal impairment to colonies. Therefore, we conclude that the use of Vespex in the vicinity of honeybees does not result in significant hive uptake while effectively reducing wasp pressure on honeybee colonies.