Impact of a perfluorinated organic compound PFOS on the terrestrial pollinator Bombus terrestris (Insecta, Hymenoptera).

Veerle Mommaerts, An Hagenaars, Johan Meyer, Wim De Coen, Luc Swevers, Hadi Mosallanejad, Guy Smagghe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


Perfluorinated organic chemicals like perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) are persistent environmental pollutants that have been measured in a great diversity of wildlife worldwide, especially in the aquatic compartment. However, little information is available on the presence and effects of PFOS in the terrestrial compartment. Therefore, we investigated in this project the risks for effects, bioaccumulation and potential mechanisms of activity of PFOS in the bumblebee Bombus terrestris L. (Hymenoptera: Apidae) that is an important worldwide pollinator in the terrestrial compartment of wildflowers and cultivated crops. The exposure to PFOS occurred orally via the drinking of treated sugar water in a wide range from 1 µg/l up to 10 mg/l, containing environmentally relevant as well as high concentrations, and this was done with use of microcolonies of B. terrestris in the laboratory. A chronic toxicity assay demonstrated high bumblebee worker mortality (up to 100%) with an LC50 of 1.01 mg/l (R2 = 0.98). In addition, PFOS posed strong detrimental reproductive effects, and these concerted with a dramatic reduction in ovarian size. HPLC-MS demonstrated a bioaccumulation factor of 27.9 for PFOS in bumblebee workers fed with sugar water containing 100 µg/l PFOS during 5 weeks (2184 ± 365 ng/g BW). Finally, potential mechanisms of activity were investigated to explain the significant impact of PFOS on survival and reproduction capacity of B. terrestris. Exposure of bumblebee workers to PFOS resulted in a significant decrease in mitochondrial electron transport activity (p = 0.035) and lipid amounts (p = 0.019), while the respective p-values were 0.58 and 0.12 for protein and glucose amounts. Hence, addition of PFOS to ecdysteroid responsive Drosophila melanogaster S2 cells resulted in a strong antagonistic action on the EcR-b.act.luc reporter construct, demonstrating that PFOS may exert its effects partially through an endocrine disrupting action via the insect molting hormone or ecdysteroid receptor.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)447-465
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • PFOS, bumblebee
  • survival, reproduction
  • electron transport, energy content
  • antagonistic activity


Dive into the research topics of 'Impact of a perfluorinated organic compound PFOS on the terrestrial pollinator Bombus terrestris (Insecta, Hymenoptera).'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this