News / Science & Technology

Honeybees Might be Spreading Disease to Wild Bumblebees

A bumblebee and honeybee foraging on the same flower species. Data from the laboratory as well as from the field show that infectious agents, so far thought species specific, are widespread in the pollinator assemblage. (Credit: Matthias A. Furst)
A bumblebee and honeybee foraging on the same flower species. Data from the laboratory as well as from the field show that infectious agents, so far thought species specific, are widespread in the pollinator assemblage. (Credit: Matthias A. Furst)
Rosanne Skirble
A new study finds that honeybees managed by beekeepers could be infecting their wild bumblebee cousins with disease.

While honeybees and bumblebees come from the same bee family, the smaller honeybees live in managed hives, which beekeepers move from farm to farm to pollinate crops and produce honey. Bumblebees live in much smaller colonies in the wild. Both get pollen from the same flowers and crops, which is how they come into contact.    

Lab experiments show that bumblebees suffer from the same parasites, pathogens and disease as honeybees. Scientists wanted to determine how that would impact bumblebees.

“We infected bees and checked their infection status and their longevity, and we found a significant reduction in their longevity," said study co-author Matthias Furst of Royal Holloway University of London. "So these pathogens are really infective and really impact our bee population.” 

Honeybees Might be Spreading Disease to Wild Bumblebees
Honeybees Might be Spreading Disease to Wild Bumblebees i
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X

Bumblebees' lifespans were shortened by one-quarter to one-third, reducing the amount of food they could provide to their colonies. Co-author Mark Brown, also with Royal Holloway University, says that loss is greater for bumblebees because their colonies, or family groups, are much smaller than honeybees' hives.

“While honeybees may have anywhere up to 50,000 workers in a hive, losing one worker is not a big problem," Brown said. "Bumblebees, depending upon the species, live in groups of anywhere between a few tens to a few hundreds of workers.  And so every worker you lose, or whose life is shortened, is going to have a much larger impact on the colony, its survival and its reproduction.” 
 
Furst says his team then checked infections in both managed and wild bee populations across England.

Bumblebee forages on a flower, which is frequently visited by a multitude of insects and therefore constitutes a hotspot for disease transmission. (Credit: Matthias A. Furst)Bumblebee forages on a flower, which is frequently visited by a multitude of insects and therefore constitutes a hotspot for disease transmission. (Credit: Matthias A. Furst)
x
Bumblebee forages on a flower, which is frequently visited by a multitude of insects and therefore constitutes a hotspot for disease transmission. (Credit: Matthias A. Furst)
Bumblebee forages on a flower, which is frequently visited by a multitude of insects and therefore constitutes a hotspot for disease transmission. (Credit: Matthias A. Furst)
"And what we find here is that the disease or the pathogens are widespread in the landscape, [and] that honeybees have much higher prevalence levels at pretty much all of those sites as compared to bumblebees, which is one of the reasons why we think the transmission is really going in this direction - honeybees to bumblebees - and not the other way around,” he said.

Viral infection is triggered by a common parasite, the Varroa mite, that spreads rapidly in beehives. Brown says methods exist to control the mites to some extent, but they remain a tricky problem.

“Because most of our controls are based on chemicals, and the mites can evolve resistance to those chemicals," he said. "And so we need coordinated control strategies, but also the development of new control strategies that are going to be effective in the long term.”

Brown hopes their study, published in Nature, focuses greater attention not only on managed pollinators, but also on the services provided by their wild counterparts.

"We need to think about how we manage managed honeybees - not just from perspective of looking after them, but potentially from the perspective of looking after our wild bees, too,” he said.

Brown adds that the sample infection numbers are conservative, so overall infection rates are most likely higher, underscoring the critical need for more work to protect the bees, which pollinate three-quarters of the world’s food crops, contributing some $200 billion to the global economy.

You May Like

Will Cuba Follow the Southeast Asia Model?

Decision to restore ties between US and Cuba has some debating whether it will lead to enhancement or regression of democracy for Communist island nation More

Kenyan Designer Finds Her Niche in Fashion Industry

‘Made in China’ fabrics underlie her success More

Report: CIA, Israel's Mossad Killed Senior Hezbollah Commander

The Washington Post story says Imad Mughniyah was killed instantly by a bomb "triggered remotely" from Tel Aviv by Mossad agents More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Htos1 from: USA
February 22, 2014 4:29 PM
How are JUST euro bees affected by CCD, but not afro's?

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Jefferson's Library Continues to Impress, 200 Years Lateri
X
Deborah Block
January 31, 2015 12:12 AM
Two hundred years after the U.S. Congress purchased a huge collection of books belonging to former President Thomas Jefferson, it remains one of America’s greatest literal treasures and has become the centerpiece of Washington’s Library of Congress. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.
Video

Video Jefferson's Library Continues to Impress, 200 Years Later

Two hundred years after the U.S. Congress purchased a huge collection of books belonging to former President Thomas Jefferson, it remains one of America’s greatest literal treasures and has become the centerpiece of Washington’s Library of Congress. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.
Video

Video Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Threat of Creeping Lava Has Hawaiians on Edge

Residents of the small town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii face an advancing threat from the Kilauea volcano. Local residents are keeping a watchful eye on creeping lava. Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Pro-Kremlin Youth Group Creatively Promotes 'Patriotic' Propaganda

As Russia's President Vladimir Putin faces international pressure over Ukraine and a failing economy, unofficial domestic groups are rallying to his support. One such youth organization, CET, or Network, uses creative multimedia to appeal to Russia's urban youth with patriotic propaganda. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Issues or Ethnicity? Question Divides Nigeria

As Nigeria goes to the polls next month, many expect the two top presidential contenders to gain much of their support from constituencies organized along ethnic or religious lines. But are faith and regional blocs really what political power in Nigeria is about? Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid