The flavonoid rutin protects the bumble bee Bombus impatiens against cognitive impairment by imidacloprid and fipronil

Andre J. Riveros, Wulfila Gronenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


The ongoing decline of bee populations and its impact on food security demands integrating multiple strategies. Sublethal impairments associated with exposure to insecticides, affecting the individual and the colony levels, have led to insecticide moratoria and bans. However, legislation alone is not sufficient and remains a temporary solution to an evolving market of insecticides. Here, we asked whether bees can be prophylactically protected against sublethal cognitive effects of two major neurotoxic insecticides, imidacloprid and fipronil, with different mechanisms of action. We evaluated the protective effect of the prophylactic administration of the flavonoid rutin, a secondary plant metabolite, present in nectar and pollen, and known for its neuroprotective properties. Following controlled or ad libitum administration of rutin, foragers of the North American bumble bee Bombus impatiens received oral administration of the insecticides at sublethal realistic dosages. Learning acquisition, memory retention and decision speed were evaluated using olfactory absolute conditioning of the proboscis extension response. We show that the insecticides primarily impair acquisition but not retention or speed of the conditioned proboscis extension response. We further show that the administration of the flavonoid rutin successfully protects the bees against impairments produced by acute and chronic administration of insecticides. Our results suggest a new avenue for the protection of bees against sublethal cognitive effects of insecticides.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberjeb244526
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number17
StatePublished - Sep 2022


  • Bee decline
  • Flavonol
  • Neonicotinoid
  • Pollinator

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Physiology
  • Aquatic Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Insect Science


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