Wild bumblebees falling victim to honeybee diseases worldwide

February 21, 2014

From: The Washington Post

By Seth Borenstein

Wild bumblebees worldwide are in trouble, probably contracting deadly diseases from their commercialized honeybee cousins, a new study shows.

That’s a problem even though bumblebees are not trucked from farm to farm as honeybees are. They provide a substantial portion of worldwide pollination of flowers and food crops, especially greenhouse tomatoes, insect experts said. And the ailments are hurting bumblebees even more, according to a study published Wednesday in the journal Nature.

“Wild populations of bumblebees appear to be in significant decline across Europe, North America, South America and also in Asia,” said study author Mark Brown of the University of London. He said his study confirmed that a major source of the decline was “the spillover of parasites and pathogens and disease” from managed honeybee hives.

Smaller studies have shown disease going back and forth between the two kinds of bees. Brown said his is the first study to look at the problem on a larger countrywide scale and include three diseases and parasites. The study tracked nearly 750 bees in 26 sites throughout Britain. It also did lab work on captive bees to show the spread of disease.

What the study shows is that “the spillover for bees is turning into  boil-over,” May Berenbaum, a University of Illinois entomology professor who was not part of the study, said by e-mail.

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