Domestic beehives linked to spike in viral infections in nearby wild bumblebee populations—through shared flowers
Many species of wild bumblebees are in decline—and new research shows that diseases spread by domestic honeybees may be a major culprit.
Several of the viruses associated with bumblebees’ trouble are moving from managed bees in apiaries to nearby populations of wild bumblebees—“and we show this spillover is likely occurring through flowers that both kinds of bees share,” says Samantha Alger, a scientist at the University of Vermont who led the new research.
“Many wild pollinators are in trouble and this finding could help us protect bumblebees,” she says. “This has implications for how we manage domestic bees and where we locate them.”
The first-of-its-kind study was published June 26 in the journal PLOS ONE.
Around the globe, the importance of wild pollinators has been gaining attention as diseases and declines in managed honeybees threaten key crops. Less well understood is that many of the threats to honeybees (Apis mellifera)—including land degradation, certain pesticides, and diseases—also threaten native bees, such as the rusty patched bumblebee, recently listed under the Endangered Species Act; it has declined by nearly 90% but was once an excellent pollinator of cranberries, plums, apples and other agricultural plants.
The research team—three scientists from the University of Vermont and one from the University of Florida—explored 19 sites across Vermont. They discovered that two well-know RNA viruses found in honeybees—deformed wing virus and black queen cell virus—were higher in bumblebees collected less than 300 meters from commercial beehives. The scientists also discovered that active infections of the deformed wing virus were higher near these commercial apiaries but no deformed wing virus was found in the bumblebees they collected where foraging honeybees and apiaries were absent.
Most impressive, the team detected viruses on 19% of the flowers they sampled from sites near apiaries. “I thought this was going to be like looking for a needle in a haystack. What are the chances that you’re going to pick a flower and find a bee virus on it?” says Alger. “Finding this many was surprising.” In contrast, the scientists didn’t detect any bee viruses on flowers sampled more than one kilometer from commercial beehives.
The UVM scientists—including Alger and co-author Alex Burnham, a doctoral student—and other bee experts have for some years suspected that RNA viruses might move from honeybees to bumblebees through shared flowers. But—with the exception of one small study in a single apiary—the degree to which these viruses can be “horizontally transmitted,” the scientists write, with flowers as the bridge, has not been examined until now.
Taken together, these results strongly suggest that “viruses in managed honeybees are spilling over to wild bumblebee populations and that flowers are an important route,” says Alison Brody, a professor in UVM’s Department of Biology, and senior author on the new PLOS study. “Careful monitoring and treating of diseased honeybee colonies could protect wild bees from these viruses as well as other pathogens or parasites.”
Just like chicken?
Alger—an expert beekeeper and researcher in UVM’s Department of Plant & Soil Science and Gund Institute for Environment—is deeply concerned about the long-distance transport of large numbers of honeybees for commercial pollination. “Big operators put hives on flatbed trucks and move them to California to pollinate almonds and then onto Texas for another crop,” she says—carrying their diseases wherever they go. And between bouts of work on monoculture farm fields, commercial bees are often taken to more pristine natural habitats “to rest and recover, where there is diverse, better forage,” says Alger.
“This research suggests that we might want to keep apiaries outside of areas where there are vulnerable pollinator species, like the rusty patched bumblebees,” Alger says, “especially because we have so much more to learn about what these viruses are actually doing to bumblebees.”
Honeybees are an important part of modern agriculture, but “they’re non-native. They’re livestock animals,” Alger says. “A huge misconception in the public is that honeybees serve as the iconic image for pollinator conservation. That’s ridiculous. It’s like making chickens the iconic image of bird conservation.”
Learn more: How Honeybees May Infect Bumblebees
Check this out if you are interested in beekeeping: Flowers Across Sydney
The Latest on: Wild bumblebees
via Google News
The Latest on: Wild bumblebees
- Bumble Bee eyes more partnerships with aquaculture, cell-cultivated seafood in its sightson April 6, 2020 at 8:02 am
Tharp told Undercurrent in a recent interview that she believes that Bumble Bee's "aperture" for partnerships beyond wild-caught seafood is much wider than that. "We’re all in the business of ...
- 'Bumblebees and butterflies' - Wild about Wildlife with Albert Nolanon April 6, 2020 at 12:07 am
Later on we went for a stroll in the nearby hills. Everyone had their own rug-sack packed full of water and food for a picnic. As we struggled up the steep hill a large queen bumblebees flew by but ...
- Berthoud beekeepers brace for the start of honey bee swarm season in mid-Aprilon April 4, 2020 at 11:21 pm
With the mid-April swarm season approaching, Berthoud is abuzz with beekeepers preparing for the regular phenomenon where bees leave their hives en masse to find new homes. Berthoud is host to a ...
- Wild flowers will be planted on top of Cardiff bus stops to help attract beeson April 1, 2020 at 9:22 am
As part of work to redesign the layout of the city centre "bee bus stops" will spring up at various locations. More than 10 bus stops will soon get the makeover as part of the Cardiff Council project.
- Want to Help Save The Bees? Start Planting Sunflowers in Your Yardon March 31, 2020 at 4:45 pm
So how can we help these flying pollinators out and finally save the bees? Planting bee-friendly flowers is definitely an easy way to help keep our buzzing friends alive, and the sunflower is the ...
- Gathered Foods, Makers Of Good Catch®, Appoints Jan Tharp Of The Bumble Bee Seafood Company To Board Of Directorson March 31, 2020 at 6:55 am
Gathered Foods, makers of Good Catch® plant-based seafood products, today announced Jan Tharp, President and CEO of The Bumble Bee ...
- Many wild animals 'count'—and it helps them survive to another dayon March 30, 2020 at 8:21 am
Now, in one of the most sweeping analyses to date, a scientist has brought together all the research on the subject and found that, from bees to birds to wolves ... “These can only be done in the wild ...
- Coronavirus: wild animals take back world’s empty city streets as people stay indoorson March 29, 2020 at 9:16 pm
And it is the same for plants. Wild orchids – which are supposed to be protected – are often picked by walkers when they blossom in late April and May, said Rieffel. This year they will be spared that ...
- WILD GEORGIA: Native bees come in many sizes, colors and shapeson March 29, 2020 at 2:25 pm
It’s a familiar scene in spring — bees of different stripes, shapes and sizes buzzing among colorful blooms, sipping nectar and gathering pollen and thereby pollinating the plants. The insects ...
- Wildflowers are great for spring gardens — just don’t get them from the wildon March 28, 2020 at 3:04 am
Their blooms provide nectar and pollen for bees, wasps and other insects early in the spring ... One vital tip: Make sure the wildflowers you buy have been grown for gardeners and not stolen from the ...
via Bing News