Managed Honey Bees Linked to New Diseases in Wild
Diseases that are common in managed honey bee colonies are now widespread in the UK’s wild bumblebees, according to research published in Nature. The study suggests that some diseases are being driven into wild bumblebee populations from managed honey bees.
Dr. Matthias Fürst and Professor Mark Brown from Royal Holloway University of London (who worked in collaboration with Dr. Dino McMahon and Professor Robert Paxton at Queen’s University Belfast, and Professor Juliet Osborne working at Rothamsted Research and the University of Exeter) say the research provides vital information for beekeepers across the world to ensure honey bee management supports wild bee populations.
Dr Fürst, from the School of Biological Sciences at Royal Holloway, said: “Wild and managed bees are in decline at national and global scales. Given their central role in pollinating wildflowers and crops, it is essential that we understand what lies behind these declines. Our results suggest that emerging diseases, spread from managed bees, may be an important cause of wild bee decline”.
This research assessed common honeybee diseases to determine if they could pass from honey bees to bumblebees. It showed that deformed wing virus (DWV) and the fungal parasite Nosema ceranae - both of which have major negative impacts on honey bee health - can infect worker bumblebees and, in the case of DWV, reduce
their lifespan. Honey bees and bumblebees were then collected from 26 sites across the UK and screened for the presence of the parasites. Both parasites were widespread in bumblebees and honey bees across the UK.
Dr. Fürst explained: “One of the novel aspects of our study is that we show that deformed
wing virus, which is one of the main causes of honey bee deaths worldwide, is not only broadly present in bumblebees, but is actually replicating inside them. This means that it is acting as a real disease; they are not just carriers.” The researchers also looked at how the
diseases spread and studied genetic similarities between DWV in different pollinator populations. Three factors suggest that honey bees are spreading the parasites into wild bumblebees: honey bees have higher background levels of the virus and the fungus than bumblebees; bumblebee infection is predicted by patterns of honey bee infection; and honey bees and bumblebees at the same sites share genetic strains of DWV. “We have known for a long time that parasites are behind declines in honey bees,” said Professor Brown. “What our data show is that these same pathogens are circulating widely across our wild and managed pollinators. Infected honey bees can leave traces of disease, like a fungal spore or virus particle, on the flowers that they visit and these may then infect wild bees.”
While recent studies have provided anecdotal reports of the presence of honey bee parasites in other pollinators, this is the first study to determine the epidemiology of these parasites across the landscape. The results suggest an urgent need for management
recommendations to reduce the threat of emerging diseases to our wild and managed
Professor Brown added: “National societies and agencies, both in the UK and globally, currently manage so-called honey bee diseases on the basis that they are a threat only to honey bees. While they are doing great work, our research shows that this premise is not true, and that the picture is much more complex. Policies to manage these diseases need to take into account threats to wild pollinators and be designed to reduce the impact of these diseases not just on managed honey bees, but on our wild bumblebees too.”
National Honey Board Funds New Honey Bee Research Projects Focusing on Honey Bee Health
Firestone, Colo., The National Honey Board has approved funding for eight new research projects focusing on honey bee health. The Board’s Research Committee, with input from an independent panel of experts, selected the projects from 25 proposals received from researchers around the world. The total dollar commitment for the eight projects is $235,646. In addition, the Board’s 2014 budget includes $50,500 for ongoing bee research projects from prior years.
The eight new projects approved for funding in 2014 include:
- 1. “Are virus levels reduced in honey bees from propolis-stimulated hives?,” Dr. Kim Mogen, University of Wisconsin - River Falls.
- 2. “Drought stressed sunflowers: Impacts on pollen nutritional value and concentrations of seed treated pesticides,” Dr. Dennis vanEngelsdorp, University of Maryland.
- 3. “Probiotic use of Acetobacteriacea Alpha 2.2 for improving honey bee colony health,” Dr. Vanessa Corby- Harris and Dr. Kirk E. Anderson, USDA Carl Hayden Bee Research Center.
- 4. “Evaluating potential of predatory mite (Stratiolaelaps scimitus) as a biological control agent for Varroa mites and testing Amitraz (Apivar) efficacy and mite resistance,” Dr. Ramesh Sagili and Ashrafun Nessa, Oregon State University.
- 5. “A proteomic approach to evaluate effects of fumagillin and discover new target genes for treatment of Nosema ceranae in honey bees,” Dr. Leellen Solter, University of Illinois.
- 6. “Characterizing the contribution of supplemental feeding to honey bee (Apis mellifera) colony strength, Nosema virulence, and detoxification gene activity,” Dr. Daniel Schmehl, University of Florida.
- 7. “Community-based evaluation of a novel resistance mechanism of bees against Varroa,” Dr. Greg Hunt, Purdue University.
- 8. “Field exposure and toxicity of neonicotinoid insecticides to honey bees via flowering field margins: The importance of continual pesticide exposure in bee forage,” Dr. Jonathan Lundgren and Dr. Christina Mogren, USDA-ARS, Brookings, SD. Scott Fausti, South Dakota State University.
Honey bee research projects funded by the National Honey Board are listed on the
Board’s website, www.honey.com. Visitors can click on the “Honey Industry” tab and
then go to “Honey and Bee Research” for further information on ongoing and completed
projects. The call for proposals for 2015 funding is expected to be posted on
the Board’s website by the end of August, with proposals due by mid-November.
The National Honey Board is an industry-funded agriculture promotion group that works to educate consumers about the benefits and uses for honey and honey products through research, marketing and promotional programs.
PROCEEDINGS OF THE AMERICAN BEE RESEARCH CONFERENCE NOW AVAILABLE!
The 2012 American Bee Research Conference was held February 7-8 at APHIS Headquarters in Greenbelt, MD in conjunction with the annual meeting of the Apiary Inspectors of America. The twenty-sixth American Bee Research Conference will be held in Hershey, PA in conjunction with the annual meeting of the American Honey Producers Association in January 2013. To access these abstracts now, click on the link below. These abstracts represent some of the latest bee research being conducted in the United States. Enjoy!