Start A Petition

Wild Bees Catch Deadly Diseases From Honeybees

Science & Tech  (tags: animals, bees, honeybees, research, science, study, disease, flowers )

- 1581 days ago -
Wild bumblebees worldwide are in trouble, likely contracting deadly diseases from their commercialized honeybee cousins, a new study shows.

Select names from your address book   |   Help

We hate spam. We do not sell or share the email addresses you provide.


Michael O (176)
Wednesday February 19, 2014, 6:06 pm
That's a problem even though bumblebees aren't trucked from farm to farm like honeybees. They provide a significant chunk of the world's pollination of flowers and food, 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 to look at the problem in a larger country-wide scale and include three diseases and parasites. The study tracked nearly 750 bees in 26 sites throughout Great Britain. And it also did lab work on captive bees to show disease spread.

What the study shows is that "the spillover for bees is turning into (a) boilover," University of Illinois entomology professor May Berenbaum, who wasn't part of the study, said in an email.

Study co-author Matthias Furst of the University of London said the team's research does not definitely prove the diseases go from honeybees to bumblebees. But the evidence points heavily in that direction because virus levels and infection rates are higher in the honeybees, he said.

Bumblebees probably pick up diseases when they go to flowers after infected honeybees, Furst said. And sometimes bumblebees invade honeybee hives and steal nectar, getting diseases that way, he added.

Bumblebees can be nearly twice as big as honeybees, can sting multiple times and don't produce surplus honey, like honeybees.

The latest research shows bumblebees are hurt more by disease, Brown said. In general, the average wild bumblebee lives 21 days, but the infected ones live closer to 15 days, he said. And while honeybee hives have tens of thousands of workers and can afford to lose some, bumblebee hives only have hundreds at the most.

"It's like Wal-Mart versus a mom-and-pop store," Berenbaum said in an interview.

Studies have shown that bumblebees provide $3 billion worth of fruit and flower pollination in the United States, while honeybees are closer to $20 billion, Berenbaum said.

The new study did not look at colony collapse disorder, which is more of a mysterious problem in North America than elsewhere. Other diseases and parasites have killed even more honeybees than the more recent colony collapse disorder.

Sue H (7)
Wednesday February 19, 2014, 7:49 pm

Phillip Wood (210)
Thursday February 20, 2014, 7:06 am
It's a bit of an odd article. For example, "honeybees have 1000's in a colony and can afford to lose some" isn't really true. The moment you lose one, the queen, the colony's in trouble. We don't really know what's going on, I'd say, but we know it's bad. Varroa is something that honeybees can't tolerate, but bumbles can, because of their shorter incubation period.Colony collapse disorder is a huge problem and I'd say the reason it's not killed as many as the other problems is because it's the latest disaster on the scene. Varroa have knocked most of the beekeepers out of business.- It isn't as easy as it used to be.

Roger G (154)
Thursday February 20, 2014, 1:04 pm
noted, thanks

Birgit W (160)
Thursday February 20, 2014, 1:49 pm
Sadly noted.

Kathleen R (138)
Thursday February 20, 2014, 2:35 pm
read & noted

Kamia T (89)
Thursday February 20, 2014, 5:09 pm
Not surprising at all. 9 years ago, when I moved here, I was brushing bees out of the way constantly. Last year, despite sitting in the middle of a very thick planted garden of nectar-producing perennials, there were very few bees at all. I've taken to protecting every hornet and wasp I can, because they also pollinate, because I'm afraid we're all going to be eating nothing but green beans, tomatoes & meat soon if we let all the bees keep getting killed off as Monsanto & Dow march on!

Julie P (154)
Thursday February 20, 2014, 8:52 pm
For those of us in North America, there is a new online site called Bumblebee Watch:

"Bumble Bee Watch is a citizen science project through the partnership of The Xerces Society, the University of Ottawa, Wildlife Preservation Canada, BeeSpotter, The Natural History Museum, London, and the Montreal Insectarium"

You can photograph bumblebees and then consult the diagrams to help you identify the species. The bumblebee species in your photo will then be confirmed by an expert. You can also search all submitted photos by province or state or by species.

Having to truck honeybee hives all over the country in order to pollinate crops is an example of the limitations of monoculture. After all, why would bees stay somewhere when there is only food available for a few weeks out of the year? If these growers would embrace the concepts of permaculture, and ditch the pesticides, they might be able to restore their much needed bee populations.

I have read a number of reports indicating both managed honeybee hives and wild bee populations are not suffering losses as severe on organic farms.

"A team of scientists in Italy believe they have found the molecular mechanism through which neonicotinoid pesticides adversely impacts the immune system of honey bees. The team's experiments suggest that exposure to neonicotinoids results in increased levels of a particular protein in bees that inhibits a key molecule involved in the immune response, making the insects more susceptible to attack by harmful viruses."

A bee with a depressed immune system would be less likely to be able to overcome a virus.

Ontario, where I live has a bee crisis, yet I have a multitude of bees. I don't use pesticides, neither due my neighbours, and I have no farms near me. I have many flowering plants, from spring through fall, and provide water and habitat for all wildlife. Eat organic, grow organic, native plants and provide habitat.

Hartson Doak (39)
Thursday February 20, 2014, 11:01 pm
NNOOOO! What will the Girl Scouts do now?

Kerrie G (116)
Friday February 21, 2014, 3:32 am
Noted, thanks.

Bea P (0)
Friday February 21, 2014, 8:05 am
Not surprising, but sad nonetheless.

Ruth C (87)
Friday February 21, 2014, 9:54 am
Very sad.

Past Member (0)
Friday February 21, 2014, 2:45 pm
All our pollinators are in deep trouble with all the chemicals and treated seed and as long as Monsanto and the other chemical giants are allowed to rule and pillage this will get worse. Shameful we are not protected from greed and power because of money.

Nimue Michelle Pendragon Gaze (339)
Saturday February 22, 2014, 2:28 am
Or, log in with your
Facebook account:
Please add your comment: (plain text only please. Allowable HTML: <a>)

Track Comments: Notify me with a personal message when other people comment on this story

Loading Noted By...Please Wait


butterfly credits on the news network

  • credits for vetting a newly submitted story
  • credits for vetting any other story
  • credits for leaving a comment
learn more

Most Active Today in Science & Tech

Content and comments expressed here are the opinions of Care2 users and not necessarily that of or its affiliates.

New to Care2? Start Here.