Recent scientific literature and reports from official sanitary agencies have pointed out the deficiency of current pesticide risk assessment processes regarding sublethal effects on pollinators. Sublethal effects include troubles in learning performance, orientation skills, or mobility, with possible contribution to substantial dysfunction at population scale. However, the study of sublethal effects is currently limited by considerable knowledge gaps, particularly for the numerous pollinators other than the honey bee Apis mellifera L.—the traditional model for pesticide risk assessment in pollinators. Here, we propose to use the crop-emptying time as a rule of thumb to guide the design of oral exposure experiments in the honey bee and wild bees. The administration of contaminated sucrose solutions is typically followed by a fasting time lapse to allow complete assimilation before the behavioral tests. The fasting duration should at least encompass the crop-emptying time, because no absorption takes place in the crop. We assessed crop-emptying rate in fasted bees and how it relates 1) with sucrose solution concentration in the honey bee and 2) with body mass in wild bees. Fasting duration required for complete crop emptying in honey bees fed 20 µl of a 50% sucrose solution was nearly 2 h. Actual fasting durations are usually shorter in toxicological studies, suggesting incomplete crop emptying, and therefore partial assimilation of experimental solutions that could imply underestimation of sublethal effects. We also found faster crop-emptying rates in large wild bees compared with smaller wild bees, and suggest operative rules to adapt sublethal assessment schemes accordingly.
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