Use of nest bundles to monitor agrochemical exposure and effects among cavity nesting pollinators

Eric M. Peterson, Kelsey N. Thompson, Katherine R. Shaw, Caleb Tomlinson, Scott D. Longing, Philip N. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Cavity nesting bees are proficient and important pollinators that can augment or replace honey bee pollination services for some crops. Relatively little is known about specific pesticide concentrations present in cavity nesting insect reed matrices and associated potential risks to cavity nesting bees. Nesting substrates (Phragmites australis reeds in bundles) were deployed in an agriculturally intensive landscape to evaluate colonization and agrochemical exposure among cavity nesting pollinators over two consecutive field seasons. Composition of insect species colonizing reeds within nest bundles varied considerably; those placed near beef cattle feed yards were dominated by wasps (93% of the total number of individuals occupying reed nest bundles), whereas nest bundles deployed in cropland-dominated landscapes were colonized primarily by leaf cutter bees (71%). All nesting/brood matrices in reeds (mud, leaves, brood, pollen) contained agrochemicals. Mud used in brood chamber construction at feed yard sites contained 21 of 23 agrochemicals included in analysis and >70% of leaf substrate stored in reeds contained at least one agrochemical. Moxidectin was most frequently detected across all reed matrices from feed yard sites, and moxidectin concentrations in nonviable larvae were more than four times higher than those quantified in viable larvae. Agrochemical concentrations in leaf material and pollen were also quantified at levels that may have induced toxic effects among developing larvae. To our knowledge, this is the first study to characterize agrochemical concentrations in multiple reed matrices provisioned by cavity-nesting insects. Use of nest bundles revealed that cavity nesting pollinators in agriculturally intensive regions are exposed to agrochemicals during all life stages, at relatively high frequencies, and at potentially lethal concentrations. These results demonstrate the utility of nest bundles for characterizing risks to cavity nesting insects inhabiting agriculturally intensive regions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number117142
JournalEnvironmental Pollution
StatePublished - Oct 1 2021


  • Beef cattle feed yards
  • Pesticides
  • Pollinators
  • Row crops


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