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The reluctant visitor: an alkaloid in toxic nectar can reduce olfactory learning and memory in Asian honey bees

First Author: Zhang JJ

The nectar of the thunder god vine, Tripterygium hypoglaucum, contains a terpenoid, triptolide (TRP), that may be toxic to the sympatric Asian honey bee, Apis cerana, because honey produced from this nectar is toxic to bees. However, these bees will forage on, recruit for, and pollinate this plant during a seasonal dearth of preferred food sources. Olfactory learning plays a key role in forager constancy and pollination, andwe therefore tested the effects of acute and chronic TRP feeding on forager olfactory learning, using proboscis extension reflex conditioning. At concentrations of 0.5– 10 μg TRP ml.1, there were no learning effects of acute exposure. However, memory retention (1 h after the last learning trial) significantly decreased by 56% following acute consumption of 0.5 μg TRP ml.1. Chronic exposure did not alter learning or memory, except at high concentrations (5 and 10 μg TRP ml.1). TRP concentrations in nectar may therefore not significantly harm plant pollination. Surprisingly, TRP slightly increased bee survival, and thus other components in T. hypoglaucum honey may be toxic. Longterm exposure to TRP could have colony effects but these may be ameliorated by the bees’ aversion to T. hypoglaucum nectar when other food sources are available and, perhaps, by detoxification mechanisms. The co-evolution of this plant and its reluctant visitor may therefore likely illustrate a classic compromise between the interests of both actors.

Contact the author: Tan K , Wang ZW
Page Number: 221
Issue: 2018
Impact Factor: 3.320
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PubYear: 2018 Jan
Publication Name: Journal of Experimental Biology
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