The Power of Drosophila melanogaster for Modeling Neonicotinoid Effects on Pollinators and Identifying Novel Mechanisms

Kiah Tasman*, Sean A Rands, James J L Hodge*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
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Neonicotinoids are the most widely used insecticides in the world and are implicated in the widespread population declines of insects including pollinators. Neonicotinoids target the nicotinic acetylcholine receptors which occur throughout the insect central nervous system, causing a wide range of sub-lethal effects in non-target insects. Here we review the potential of Drosophila melanogaster to model the sub-lethal effects of neonicotinoids on pollinators, utilising the well-established assays available to allow rapid identification of the lethal and sub-lethal effects of neonicotinoids. We compare studies on the effects of neonicotinoids on lethality, reproduction, locomotion, immunity, learning, circadian rhythms and sleep in D. melanogaster and a range of pollinators. Additionally, we review the genetic tools available in D. melanogaster, such as UAS:GAL4 and RNAi lines and how they can allow exploration of the mechanisms underlying sub-lethal effects. We argue that studying pollinators and D. melanogaster in tandem allows elucidation of mechanisms of action, the transferal of techniques and assays from D. melanogaster to pollinator species, and the identification of novel sublethal effects such as on circadian rhythms and sleep. The comparison of effects between D. melanogaster and pollinators and the use of genetic tools to identify mechanisms may also facilitate the creation of more specific pesticides in the future.
Original languageEnglish
Article number659440
Number of pages21
JournalFrontiers in Physiology
Publication statusPublished - 21 Apr 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by a BBSRC studentship BB/J014400/1 and Leverhulme project grant RPG-2016-318 awarded to JH.

Publisher Copyright:
© Copyright © 2021 Tasman, Rands and Hodge.


  • neonicotinoids
  • honeybee
  • bumblebee
  • fruit fly
  • Drosophila melanogaster
  • insecticides
  • sub-lethal effects
  • behavior


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