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)
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Multimedia Relatives of South Korean Ferry Victims Fire at Authorities

36 people are confirmed dead, but some 270 remain trapped on board More

War Legacy Haunts Vietnam, US Relations

$84 million project aims to clean up soil contaminated by Agent Orange More

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends 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.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid