Fungicides are routinely used in agriculture to protect crops from harmful fungi. While harmless to the adult bumble bee, these fungicides appear to be having unintended consequences for bumble bee populations. By what mechanism can a toxin designed for yeast affect bumble bees?
Dr. Shawn Steffan at the University of Wisconsin-Madison discovered that the stored pollen and nectar that bumble bee larvae feed on is rich in yeast, a type of fungus. Based on this observation, he proposed that the use of fungicides could affect bumble bee food stores and ultimately the health of bumble bee colonies. He then designed an experiment to test this hypothesis by comparing the sizes of bumble bee colonies that forage on flowering plants grown in the presence or absence of fungicides.
This video could be used when studying interspecific interaction in an ecology unit. It provides students with the opportunity to learn about
how toxins can indirectly affect species as a result of their interactions with other species;
designing a controlled experiment to collect data for testing a hypothesis; and
using data from research studies to guide the development of sustainable agricultural practices.
The video provides an opportunity for graph interpretation at 4:00 minutes.