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

Uganda Court Annuls Anti-Gay Law

Court says law was passed in parliament without enough members present for a full quorum More

Multimedia Thailand Makes Efforts to Improve Conditions for Migrant Laborers

In Thailand, its not uncommon for parents to bring their children to work; one company, in-collaboration with other organizations, address safety concerns More

In Indonesia, Jihad Video Raises Concern

Video calls on Indonesians to join Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, ISIL 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.
In Thailand, Some Efforts to Improve Conditions For Migrant Laborersi
X
Steve Herman
August 01, 2014 6:22 PM
Thailand has been facing increasing international scrutiny as a hub of human trafficking and slave labor. Some of the kingdom’s companies are striving to improve working conditions, especially for the millions of migrant laborers from surrounding countries. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok takes a look at one initiative for children at construction sites
Video

Video In Thailand, Some Efforts to Improve Conditions For Migrant Laborers

Thailand has been facing increasing international scrutiny as a hub of human trafficking and slave labor. Some of the kingdom’s companies are striving to improve working conditions, especially for the millions of migrant laborers from surrounding countries. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok takes a look at one initiative for children at construction sites
Video

Video Public Raises its Voice on Power Plant Pollution

In the United States, proposed rules to cut pollution from the nation’s 600 coal-fired power plants are generating a heated debate. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, charged with writing and implementing the plan, has already received 300,000 written comments. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, another 1,600 people are lining up this week at EPA headquarters and at satellite offices around the country to give their testimony in person.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video China Investigates Powerful Former Security Chief

The public in China is welcoming the Communist Party's decision to investigate one of the country's once most powerful politicians, former domestic security chief Zhou Yongkang. Analysts say the move by President Xi Jinping is not only an effort to win more support for the party, but an essential step to furthering much needed economic reforms and removing those who would stand in the way of change. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.

AppleAndroid