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Detrimental effects of amitraz exposure in honey bees (Apis mellifera) infected with Nosema ceranae

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In recent years, there has been growing concern on the potential weakening of honey bees and their increased susceptibility to pathogens due to chronic exposure to xenobiotics. The present work aimed to study the effects on bees undergoing an infection by Nosema ceranae and being exposed to a frequently used in-hive acaricide, amitraz. To achieve this, newly emerged bees were individually infected with N. ceranae spores and/or received a sublethal concentration of amitraz in their diets under laboratory conditions. Mortality, food intake, total volume excrement, body appearance, and parasite development were registered. Bees exposed to both stressors jointly had higher mortality rates compared to bees exposed separately, with no difference in the parasite development. An increase in sugar syrup consumption was observed for all treated bees while infected bees fed with amitraz also showed a diminishment in pollen intake. These results coupled with an increase in the total number of excretion events, alterations in behavior and body surface on individuals that received amitraz could evidence the detrimental action of this molecule. To corroborate these findings under semi-field conditions, worker bees were artificially infected, marked, and released into colonies. Then, they were exposed to a commercial amitraz-based product by contact. The recovered bees showed no differences in the parasite development due to amitraz exposure. This study provides evidence to which extent a honey bee infected with N. ceranae could potentially be weakened by chronic exposure to amitraz treatment.

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This work was supported by Agencia Nacional de Promoción Científica y Tecnológica, Fondo para la Investigación Científica y Tecnológica, under projects PICT-2017–2169, PICT-2018–3969, and PICT-2021–00120.

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PMG and MPP conceived and designed the study. Material preparation, data collection and analysis were performed by CZ, PMG and MPP. Supervision of the research was driven by PMG and MPP. The funding acquisition was made by PMG, MPP and MJE. The manuscript was written by CZ, PMG and MPP and all authors commented on further versions. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Paula Melisa Garrido.

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No approval of research ethics committees was required to accomplish the goals of this study because experimental work was conducted with an unregulated invertebrate species.

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All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Handling Editor: Julia Walochnik.

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Zufriategui, C., Porrini, M.P., Eguaras, M.J. et al. Detrimental effects of amitraz exposure in honey bees (Apis mellifera) infected with Nosema ceranae. Parasitol Res 123, 204 (2024).

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