Pollinators support the production of the leading food crops worldwide. Organophosphates are a heavily used group of insecticides that pollinators can be exposed to, especially during crop pollination. Exposure to lethal or sublethal doses can impair fitness of wild and managed bees, risking pollination quality and food security. Here we report a low-cost, scalable in vivo detoxification strategy for organophosphate insecticides involving encapsulation of phosphotriesterase (OPT) in pollen-inspired microparticles (PIMs). We developed uniform and consumable PIMs capable of loading OPT at 90% efficiency and protecting OPT from degradation in the pH of a bee gut. Microcolonies of Bombus impatiens fed malathion-contaminated pollen patties demonstrated 100% survival when fed OPT−PIMs but 0% survival with OPT alone, or with plain sucrose within five and four days, respectively. Thus, the detrimental effects of malathion were eliminated when bees consumed OPT−PIMs. This design presents a versatile treatment that can be integrated into supplemental feeds such as pollen patties or dietary syrup for managed pollinators to reduce risk of organophosphate insecticides.
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This material is based on work that are partially supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, US Department of Agriculture, Hatch under 2017-18-107, Counter ACT Program of the National Institute of Health under Award Number R21-NS10383-01 and the National Science Foundation under Award Number IIP-1918981. This work made use of the Cornell Center for Materials Research Shared Facilities which are supported through the NSF MRSEC programme (DMR-1719875).
The technology described in this paper is being licensed to Beemmunity Inc., a start-up company co-founded by J.W. M.M. and J.C. are scientific advisors and shareholders of Beemmunity Inc.
Peer review information Nature Food thanks Liangfang Zhang, Scott Walper and Scott Medina for their contribution to the peer review of this work.
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Chen, J., Webb, J., Shariati, K. et al. Pollen-inspired enzymatic microparticles to reduce organophosphate toxicity in managed pollinators. Nat Food 2, 339–347 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s43016-021-00282-0