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Novel biopesticide based on a spider venom peptide shows no adverse effects on honeybees

Nakasu, Y.E.T.; Williamson, S.M.; Edwards, M.G.; Fitches, E.C.; Gatehouse, J.A.; Wright, G.; Gatehouse, A.M.R.

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Y.E.T. Nakasu

S.M. Williamson

M.G. Edwards

J.A. Gatehouse

G. Wright

A.M.R. Gatehouse


Evidence is accumulating that commonly used pesticides are linked to decline of pollinator populations; adverse effects of three neonicotinoids on bees have led to bans on their use across the European Union. Developing insecticides that pose negligible risks to beneficial organisms such as honeybees is desirable and timely. One strategy is to use recombinant fusion proteins containing neuroactive peptides/proteins linked to a ‘carrier’ protein that confers oral toxicity. Hv1a/GNA (Galanthus nivalis agglutinin), containing an insect-specific spider venom calcium channel blocker (ω-hexatoxin-Hv1a) linked to snowdrop lectin (GNA) as a ‘carrier’, is an effective oral biopesticide towards various insect pests. Effects of Hv1a/GNA towards a non-target species, Apis mellifera, were assessed through a thorough early-tier risk assessment. Following feeding, honeybees internalized Hv1a/GNA, which reached the brain within 1 h after exposure. However, survival was only slightly affected by ingestion (LD50 > 100 µg bee−1) or injection of fusion protein. Bees fed acute (100 µg bee−1) or chronic (0.35 mg ml−1) doses of Hv1a/GNA and trained in an olfactory learning task had similar rates of learning and memory to no-pesticide controls. Larvae were unaffected, being able to degrade Hv1a/GNA. These tests suggest that Hv1a/GNA is unlikely to cause detrimental effects on honeybees, indicating that atracotoxins targeting calcium channels are potential alternatives to conventional pesticides.


Nakasu, Y., Williamson, S., Edwards, M., Fitches, E., Gatehouse, J., Wright, G., & Gatehouse, A. (2014). Novel biopesticide based on a spider venom peptide shows no adverse effects on honeybees. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 281(1787), Article 20140619.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date May 7, 2014
Online Publication Date Jul 22, 2014
Publication Date Jul 1, 2014
Deposit Date Mar 2, 2015
Publicly Available Date May 8, 2015
Journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Print ISSN 0962-8452
Electronic ISSN 1471-2954
Publisher The Royal Society
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 281
Issue 1787
Article Number 20140619
Keywords Insecticidal fusion proteins, Biopesticide, Honeybees, v-hexatoxin-Hv1a, Snowdrop lectin (Galanthus nivalis agglutinin), Pollinator decline.


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