Foraging activity of bumblebees (<i>Bombus terrestris</i> L.) on Bt-expressing eggplants
A greenhouse experiment was setup to study foraging behavior of the bumblebee Bombus terrestris L. on Cry3Bb-expressing genetically modified (GM) eggplants and their near-isogenic control. Commonly, more bumblebees visited GM eggplants compared to near-isogenic control, but this difference was only marginally significant. The mean length of feeding bouts was similar on the two treatments. Neither the number of flowers produced nor their size could explain bumblebees’ tendency to prefer GM eggplants. Volatile compounds were extracted from five plants per genotype and separated using gas chromatography. Thirteen compounds were identified and five of them appeared significantly more abundant in GM eggplants. Six of the identified compounds [(+)-limonene, Z-jasmone, p-cymene, α-pinene, methyl-salicilate, and (−)-limonene] were tested in electrophysiological bioassays with antennas detached from young bumblebees, and a response was recorded in all six cases. Experimental results indicate that pollination activity of bumblebees is compatible with this GM eggplant event as a food source and that chemical cues may have an important role in plant identification. The implications for environmental risk assessment of GM plants are discussed.