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  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 1, 2024
  2. Free, publicly-accessible full text available March 1, 2024
  3. Abstract

    Numerous studies have documented the negative effects of neonicotinoids on bees; it remains crucial to examine how neonicotinoids affect other non‐target nectar‐feeding insects, such as the monarch butterfly,Danaus plexippus.

    Wildflowers growing near agricultural areas can be contaminated with neonicotinoids that affect survival or cause sublethal changes to behaviours of nectar‐feeding insects. Nectar residues of imidacloprid and clothianidin found in milkweeds and wildflowers adjacent to agricultural field range from 0 to 72.8 ng/mL.

    At field‐relevant doses, two neonicotinoids (imidacloprid and clothianidin) were studied for their effects on adult monarch survival, reproduction, flight and behaviour. First, we fed adult monarchs artificial nectar solutions ranging from 15 to 386 ng/mL of imidacloprid and 19 to 531 ng/mL of clothianidin. Neonicotinoid ingestion slightly reduced monarch reproduction but had no significant effects on survival, weight change, or activity levels.

    Second, we fed monarchs higher clothianidin doses (909 and 4030 ng/mL), that exceed field‐relevant levels by 22 and 99 times. These higher doses reduced monarch nectar consumption, survival, flight performance and reaction time in response to a drop test.

    Results show that adult monarchs tolerate field‐relevant doses as high as 54 ng/mL for imidacloprid and 75 ng/mL for clothianidin, with minimal lethal or sub‐lethal effects until much higher doses are supplied. We conclude that adultmore »monarchs are more tolerant of ingested clothianidin and imidacloprid than indicated by previous research.

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  4. Free, publicly-accessible full text available October 1, 2023
  5. Neonicotinoids are the most widely used insecticides in North America. Numerous studies document the negative effects of neonicotinoids on bees, and it remains crucial to demonstrate if neonicotinoids affect other non-target insects, such as butterflies. Here we examine how two neonicotinoids (imidacloprid and clothianidin) affect the development, survival, and flight of monarch butterflies, and how these chemicals interact with the monarch’s milkweed host plant. We first fed caterpillars field-relevant low doses (0.075 and 0.225 ng/g) of neonicotinoids applied to milkweed leaves (Asclepias incarnata), and found no significant reductions in larval development rate, pre-adult survival, or adult flight performance. We next fed larvae higher neonicotinoid doses (4–70 ng/g) and reared them on milkweed species known to produce low, moderate, or high levels of secondary toxins (cardenolides). Monarchs exposed to the highest dose of clothianidin (51–70 ng/g) experienced pupal deformity, low survival to eclosion, smaller body size, and weaker adult grip strength. This effect was most evident for monarchs reared on the lowest cardenolide milkweed (A. incarnata), whereas monarchs reared on the high-cardenolide A. curassavica showed no significant reductions in any variable measured. Our results indicate that monarchs are tolerant to low doses of neonicotinoid, and that negative impacts of neonicotinoids dependmore »on host plant type. Plant toxins may confer protective effects or leaf physical properties may affect chemical retention. Although neonicotinoid residues are ubiquitous on milkweeds in agricultural and ornamental settings, commonly encountered doses below 50 ng/g are unlikely to cause substantial declines in monarch survival or migratory performance.« less
  6. Anthropogenic landscape modification such as urbanization can expose wildlife to toxicants, with profound behavioural and health effects. Toxicant exposure can alter the local transmission of wildlife diseases by reducing survival or altering immune defence. However, predicting the impacts of pathogens on wildlife across their ranges is complicated by heterogeneity in toxicant exposure across the landscape, especially if toxicants alter wildlife movement from toxicant-contaminated to uncontaminated habitats. We developed a mechanistic model to explore how toxicant effects on host health and movement propensity influence range-wide pathogen transmission, and zoonotic exposure risk, as an increasing fraction of the landscape is toxicant-contaminated. When toxicant-contaminated habitat is scarce on the landscape, costs to movement and survival from toxicant exposure can trap infected animals in contaminated habitat and reduce landscape-level transmission. Increasing the proportion of contaminated habitat causes host population declines from combined effects of toxicants and infection. The onset of host declines precedes an increase in the density of infected hosts in contaminated habitat and thus may serve as an early warning of increasing potential for zoonotic spillover in urbanizing landscapes. These results highlight how sublethal effects of toxicants can determine pathogen impacts on wildlife populations that may not manifest until landscape contamination ismore »widespread.« less
  7. Abstract

    Insect–pathogen dynamics can show seasonal and inter‐annual variations that covary with fluctuations in insect abundance and climate. Long‐term analyses are especially needed to track parasite dynamics in migratory insects, in part because their vast habitat ranges and high mobility might dampen local effects of density and climate on infection prevalence.

    Monarch butterfliesDanaus plexippusare commonly infected with the protozoanOphryocystis elektroscirrha(OE). Because this parasite lowers monarch survival and flight performance, and because migratory monarchs have experienced declines in recent decades, it is important to understand the patterns and drivers of infection.

    Here we compiled data onOEinfection spanning 50 years, from wild monarchs sampled in the United States, Canada and Mexico during summer breeding, fall migrating and overwintering periods. We examined eastern versus western North American monarchs separately, to ask how abundance estimates, resource availability, climate and breeding season length impact infection trends. We further assessed the intensity of migratory culling, which occurs when infected individuals are removed from the population during migration.

    Average infection prevalence was four times higher in western compared to eastern subpopulations. In eastern North America, the proportion of infected monarchs increased threefold since the mid‐2000s. In the western region, the proportion of infected monarchs declined sharply from 2000 to 2015, andmore »increased thereafter. For both eastern and western subpopulations, years with greater summer adult abundance predicted greater infection prevalence, indicating that transmission increases with host breeding density. Environmental variables (temperature and NDVI) were not associated with changes in the proportion of infected adults. We found evidence for migratory culling of infected butterflies, based on declines in parasitism during fall migration. We estimated that tens of millions fewer monarchs reach overwintering sites in Mexico as a result ofOE, highlighting the need to consider the parasite as a potential threat to the monarch population.

    Increases in infection among eastern North American monarchs post‐2002 suggest that changes to the host’s ecology or environment have intensified parasite transmission. Further work is needed to examine the degree to which human practices, such as mass caterpillar rearing and the widespread planting of exotic milkweed, have contributed to this trend.

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  8. Abstract Background Mobile animals transport nutrients and propagules across habitats, and are crucial for the functioning of food webs and for ecosystem services. Human activities such as urbanization can alter animal movement behavior, including site fidelity and resource use. Because many urban areas are adjacent to natural sites, mobile animals might connect natural and urban habitats. More generally, understanding animal movement patterns in urban areas can help predict how urban expansion will affect the roles of highly mobile animals in ecological processes. Methods Here, we examined movements by a seasonally nomadic wading bird, the American white ibis ( Eudocimus albus ), in South Florida, USA. White ibis are colonial wading birds that forage on aquatic prey; in recent years, some ibis have shifted their behavior to forage in urban parks, where they are fed by people. We used a spatial network approach to investigate how individual movement patterns influence connectivity between urban and non-urban sites. We built a network of habitat connectivity using GPS tracking data from ibis during their non-breeding season and compared this network to simulated networks that assumed individuals moved indiscriminately with respect to habitat type. Results We found that the observed network was less connected thanmore »the simulated networks, that urban-urban and natural-natural connections were strong, and that individuals using urban sites had the least-variable habitat use. Importantly, the few ibis that used both urban and natural habitats contributed the most to connectivity. Conclusions Habitat specialization in urban-acclimated wildlife could reduce the exchange of propagules and nutrients between urban and natural areas, which has consequences both for beneficial effects of connectivity such as gene flow and for detrimental effects such as the spread of contaminants or pathogens.« less