Feeding Preference and Sub-chronic Effects of ZnO Nanomaterials in Honey Bees (Apis mellifera carnica)

  • Gordana Glavan
  • Tamara Milivojević
  • Janko Božič
  • Kristina Sepčić
  • Damjana Drobne


The extensive production of zinc oxide (ZnO) nanomaterials (NMs) may result in high environmental zinc burdens. Honeybees need to have special concern due to their crucial role in pollination. Our previous study indicated that low concentrations of ZnO NMs, corresponding to 0.8 mg Zn/mL, have a neurotoxic potential for honeybees after a 10-day oral exposure. Present study was designed to investigate the effect of a short, dietary exposure of honeybees to ZnO NMs at concentrations 0.8–8 mg Zn/mL on consumption rate, food preference, and two enzymatic biomarkers—a stress-related glutathione S-transferase (GST) and the neurotoxicity biomarker acetylcholinesterase (AChE). Consumption rate showed a tendency toward a decrease feeding with the increasing concentrations of ZnO NMs. None of Zn NMs concentrations caused alterations in mortality rate and in the activities of brain GST and AChE. To investigate if there is an avoidance response against Zn presence in food, 24-h two-choice tests were performed with control sucrose diet versus sucrose suspensions with different concentrations of ZnO NMs added. We demonstrated that honeybees prefer ZnO NMs ZnO NMs containing suspensions, even at highest Zn concentrations tested, compared with the control diet. This indicates that they might be able to perceive the presence of ZnO NMs in sucrose solution. Because honeybees feed frequently the preference towards ZnO NMs might have a high impact on their survival when exposed to these NMs.


Sucrose Solution Gustatory Receptor Dibasic Potassium Phosphate Wooden Cage Gravity Feeder 
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This work was supported by the Slovenian Research Agency (ARRS) Grant J1-4109. The research underlying these results has received funding from the European Community’s Seventh Framework Program (FP7/2007-2013) under Grant Agreement No. 263147 (NanoValid—Development of reference methods for hazard identification, risk assessment and LCA of engineered nanomaterials). The authors thank Marko Soderžnik and Aljaž Ivekovič (Department for Nanostructure and Materials K7—Jožef Štefan Institute, Ljubljana, Slovenia) for help performing the characterization of suspensions. The authors thank Monika Kos for participating in the feeding choice experiment.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gordana Glavan
    • 1
  • Tamara Milivojević
    • 1
  • Janko Božič
    • 1
  • Kristina Sepčić
    • 1
  • Damjana Drobne
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Biology, Biotechnical FacultyUniversity of LjubljanaLjubljanaSlovenia

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