New threats to wild bees identified
Wild bumblebees are infected with many of the diseases found in honeybees looked after by bee keepers, according to a national survey. With wild bees already under threat from habitat loss and pesticides, diseases could have a profound impact on populations, say scientists. In Britain, bumblebee species are declining, and two have become extinct.
Conservation groups are calling for tougher regulations on importing bees for commercial use. Researchers at Royal Holloway, University of London, collected hundreds of free flying honeybees and wild bumblebees in 26 areas of England, Wales and Scotland.
Analysis revealed that five common viruses which cause disease in honeybees are circulating in bumblebees. More needs to be done to protect both wild bees and commercial honeybees, said a team led by Prof Mark Brown of the School of Biological Sciences at Royal Holloway, University of London.
"Our findings reveal the widespread prevalence in wild bee populations of multiple RNA viruses previously associated with honeybees," the researchers report in the Journal of Animal Ecology. Together with other environmental factors, such as habitat loss and pesticides, diseases could have a "profound impact on the long-term health of bee populations," they said.