Comparison of sublethal effects of natural acaricides carvacrol and thymol on honeybees
The parasitic mite Varroa destructor is a threat to beekeeping colonies. Among naturally derived acaricides, the monoterpenoid essential oil compound thymol is used in beekeeping for varroa mite control, but adverse impacts on honeybees has been already documented. Carvacrol, another monoterpenoid, also has a high acaricidal potential and could thus be promising for regular use in beekeeping, but information is scarce regarding the effects of prolonged systemic administration of carvacrol on honeybees. In this study, we evaluate and compared the sublethal effects of long term consumption of carvacrol and thymol on Carnolian honeybee workers (Apis mellifera carnica). Survival and feeding rate were determined preliminary to assess sublethal concentrations. The sublethal effects were analysed by the activity of the acetylcholinesterase (AChE), enzyme involved in the control of neurotransmission, and the activity of detoxifying enzyme glutathione S-transferase (GST) in heads and thoraces. We found that, thymol and carvacrol, caused mortality only at the highest concentrations tested, 1% and 5% respectively. As demonstrated by others, both substances could be effective against varroa at concentrations ten times lower than those causing significant honeybee mortality. However, we demonstrated sublethal effects at the 0.05% carvacrol and thymol exposure concentrations evidenced as increased activity of AChE and GST in the honeybee heads. In conclusion, prolonged treatment with thymol and carvacrol affects bee nervous system and induce detoxification processes possibly resulting in a limited use for acaricidal purposes. We postulate that under the same chronic exposure conditions carvacrol and thymol will have similar sublethal effects on honeybees.