Wild bees are at risk of catching diseases from their struggling domesticated brethren, according to a recent study published in The Journal of Applied Ecology.
The study, led by evolutionary geneticist Lena Wilfert of the University of Exeter, adds a new layer to the crisis known as colony collapse disorder (CCD), which has precipitated an alarming drop in honeybee populations worldwide. … [T]he use of pesticides isn’t the only anthropogenic driver behind the transmission of pathogens into the wild. Wilfert’s team also found that many commercial beekeepers are creating ideal conditions for virulent diseases to emerge. “High densities within breeding facilities and in commercial pollination operations increase the contact rate between infected and uninfected conspecifics, thereby lowering the threshold for disease emergence,” the authors explain.
Helen Briggs reports from across the Pond:
Vanessa Amaral-Rogers of the charity, Buglife, said the results of the study showed an urgent need for changes in how the government regulates the importation of bees. “Wild honey bees can no longer be found in England or Wales, thought to have been wiped out by disease,” she told BBC News. “Now these studies show how diseases can be transmitted between managed honey bees and commercial bumble bees, and could have potentially drastic impacts on the rest of our wild pollinators.”
A study last year on a sample of commercial bumble bee hives imported into the UK found 77% were contaminated with up to five different parasites, with a further three being found in the pollen that was brought in with them, she added.