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Crop Biotech Update

Scientists Evaluate Effects of Bt Toxin on Worker Honeybees

December 2, 2011

It is a must to evaluate the effect of Bt insecticidal proteins on non-target insects prior to commercialization of Bt crops. Since honeybees are highly beneficial insects in natural and agro-systems, it must be one of the key species that must be evaluated for potential effects of Bt crops. Thus, Ping-Li Dai of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Science and colleagues conducted laboratory trials of feeding worker honeybees with different concentrations of Cry1Ah toxin mixed in sugar syrup. Their aim was to assess the lethal and sublethal effects of the toxin on the survival, pollen consumption, and hypopharyngeal gland mass of honeybees (Apis melifera ligustica and Apis cerana cerana).

Results of the feeding trials showed that there were no significant differences in the survival of honeybees fed sugar mixture with different concentrations of Cry1Ah toxin. No significant differences were also found in the longevity of the honeybees fed with the toxin and those that were fed with plain sugar syrup. Similar pollen consumption was exhibited by both A. melifera ligustica and A. cerana cerana. Honeybees fed with Cr1Ah toxin showed no significant changes in the weight of their hypopharyngeal glands, which play a significant role in colony development of bees.

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