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The leafcutter bee, Megachile rotundata, is more sensitive to N-cyanoamidine neonicotinoid and butenolide insecticides than other managed bees


Recent research has shown that several managed bee species have specific P450 enzymes that are preadapted to confer intrinsic tolerance to some insecticides including certain neonicotinoids. However, the universality of this finding across managed bee pollinators is unclear. Here we show that the alfalfa leafcutter bee, Megachile rotundata, lacks such P450 enzymes and is >2,500-fold more sensitive to the neonicotinoid thiacloprid and 170-fold more sensitive to the butenolide insecticide flupyradifurone than other managed bee pollinators. These findings have important implications for the safe use of insecticides in crops where M. rotundata is used for pollination, and ensuring that regulatory pesticide risk assessment frameworks are protective of this species.

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Fig. 1: Distribution and phylogeny of the CYP9 family of P450 genes in bee pollinators.
Fig. 2: Biological and biochemical characterization of the response of M. rotundata to select insecticides.

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Data availability

The accession numbers of the M. rotundata P450 genes analysed in this study are shown in Supplementary Table 1. All other data generated or analysed during the study are included in this published article and its Supplementary Information files.


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This study received funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and Bayer AG through an Industrial CASE studentship award (no. BB/P504774/1). The technical assistance of J. Hens is gratefully acknowledged.

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Authors and Affiliations



C.B. and R.N. conceived and directed the study, A.H., K.B., K.S.S. and J.G. performed the experiments and analysis. N.E., M.Z., M.-T.A., A.N. and C.G. analysed and interpreted the data. A.H., C.B. and R.N. wrote the paper with contributions from all authors.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Chris Bass or Ralf Nauen.

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Competing interests

This study received funding from Bayer AG, a manufacturer of neonicotinoid and butenolide insecticides. N.E., M.Z., M.-T.A., A.N., C.G., J.G. and R.N. are employees of Bayer AG.

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Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Tables 1 and 3.

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Supplementary Table

Supplementary Table 2 Comparison of the CYPomes of 4 managed bee species.

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Hayward, A., Beadle, K., Singh, K.S. et al. The leafcutter bee, Megachile rotundata, is more sensitive to N-cyanoamidine neonicotinoid and butenolide insecticides than other managed bees. Nat Ecol Evol 3, 1521–1524 (2019).

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