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

Tunnel Bombs Highlight Savagery of Aleppo Fight

Rebels have used tunneling tactic near government buildings, command posts or supply routes to set off explosives; they detonated their largest bomb this week under Syria's intelligence headquarters More

Sierra Leone Launches New Initiative to Stop Ebola Spread

Government hopes Infection and Prevention Control Units, IPC, will help protect patients and healthcare workers More

UN Official: Fight Against Terrorism Must Not Violate Human Rights

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights says efforts by states to combat terrorism are resulting in large scale rights violations against the very citizens they claim to defend 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.
Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boyi
X
Jeff Seldin
March 05, 2015 2:36 AM
A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Authorities Struggle to Secure a Divided Mariupol

Since last month's cease-fire went into effect, shelling around the port city of Mariupol has decreased, but it is thought pro-Russian separatists remain poised to attack. For the city’s authorities, a major challenge is gaining the trust of residents, while at the same time rooting out informants who are passing sensitive information to the rebels. Patrick Wells reports for VOA.
Video

Video Volunteer Gauge-Watchers Help Fine-Tune Weather Science

An observation system called CoCoRaHS is working to improve weather science, thanks to thousands of volunteers across the country who measure precipitation in their own backyards, then share their data through the Internet. VOA's Shelley Schlender reports.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video African Americans Recall 1960s Fight For Voting Rights

U.S. President Barack Obama and thousands of people will gather in the small southern U.S. city of Selma, Alabama, Saturday, March 7 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of a historic voting rights march that became known as “Bloody Sunday." VOA’s Chris Simkins traveled to Alabama and introduces us to some of the foot soldiers of the voting rights struggles of the 1960s.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.

All About America

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