Imported bumblebees pose 'parasite threat' to native beesBy Victoria Gill

Discussion in 'Bee News' started by Americasbeekeeper, Jul 19, 2013.

  1. Americasbeekeeper

    Americasbeekeeper New Member

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    [h=1]Imported bumblebees pose 'parasite threat' to native
    bees[/h]By Victoria Gill
    Science reporter, BBC News
    Between 40,000 and 50,000
    bumblebee colonies are imported into the UK every year

    Bumblebees imported from Europe carry
    pathogens that pose a threat to native honeybees and bumblebees in the UK,
    according to scientists.

    Between 40,000 and 50,000 bumblebee colonies are imported into England each
    year to assist with crop pollination.

    For a study in the Journal of Applied Ecology, scientists bought 48 colonies
    - hives containing up to 100 bees each - from three producers in Europe.

    They found 77% had parasites that could infect native bees.

    Lead researcher Prof William Hughes, of the University of Sussex, said
    commercial production and importation of bumblebees had been "going on for

    "We couldn't grow tomatoes in this country without these bumblebees," he

    And with the decline in pollinating insects in recent years, food producers
    are increasingly reliant upon imported bees.

    "Over a million colonies are imported globally - it's a huge trade," said
    Prof Hughes. "And a surprisingly large number of these are produced in
    factories, mainly in Eastern Europe.

    "We sought to answer the big question of whether colonies that are being
    produced now have parasites and, if so, whether those parasites are actually
    infectious or harmful."
    Undercover science
    With his colleagues from the universities of Leeds and Stirling, the
    researcher set out to buy colonies "in exactly the same way a farmer would".

    Precious pollinators

    The team then screened the bees for parasite DNA.

    "We found quite a number of parasites within the bees," Prof Hughes said.

    The imported bumblebee colonies carried a range of parasites including the
    three main bumblebee parasites (Crithidia bombi, Nosema bombi and
    Apicystis bombi), three honeybee parasites (Nosema apis,
    Ascosphaera apis
    and Paenibacillus larvae), and two parasites that
    infect both bumblebees and honeybees (Nosema ceranae and deformed wing

    The team also found parasites in the pollen food supplied with the bees.

    The scientists say that current regulations governing bumblebee imports are

    In England, for example, the non-departmental public body responsible for the
    protection of the environment, Natural England, issues licences for the release
    of non-native bumblebee subspecies.

    But this study found parasites in both native and non-native subspecies that
    were commercially reared in Europe, and no licences are required to release
    native subspecies into the environment.

    Natural England said under current regulations it was "not possible to impose
    disease control conditions or environmental safeguards on the release of
    imported bumblebees which originally descended from British bumblebees".

    "It is therefore of particular concern that this research has revealed that
    imported bees - descended from British stock - have been found to be carrying
    disease," its statement added.

    Many bee species are already showing significant population
    End Quote Prof William Hughes University of Sussex

    "Our licensing regime stipulates that where non-native
    bumblebees are used, they must be disease free, only used within polytunnels or
    greenhouses, using hives from which queens cannot escape, and that all hives and
    surviving bees must be destroyed at the end of their use."

    But the researchers say that regulatory authorities need to strengthen
    measures to prevent importation of parasite-carrying bumblebee colonies,
    including checking bees on arrival in the UK and extending regulations to cover
    imported colonies of the native subspecies.

    Prof Hughes said: "If we don't act, then the risk is that potentially tens of
    thousands of parasite-carrying bumblebee colonies may be imported into the UK
    each year, and hundreds of thousands worldwide.

    "Many bee species are already showing significant population declines," he

    "The introduction of more or new parasite infections will at a minimum
    exacerbate this, and could quite possibly directly drive declines."

    The British Beekeepers Association said in a statement: "Defra (the UK
    Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) must take urgent steps
    to tighten regulations together with practical steps to ensure that imported
    bumblebee colonies are not heavily laden with pathogens.

    It continued: "[Regulations must ensure] that these bees are not released
    into the environment at the end of the season putting our native pollinators at
    enhanced risk."

    A Defra representative responded to the study, saying: "Imported colonies of
    non-native bees are required to be screened for parasites and disease.

    "We will continue to work with Natural England to ensure that growers who
    break the rules are punished."
  2. ApisBees

    ApisBees Active Member

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    Thanks for posting this Gary.
    In relation to bumblebees, Dose anyone know or are doing research on what effect the small hive beetle will have on the native and bumble bees? If any. The SHB are not an natural pretator of the europeon honey bee but has adaped to them nicely at the expense of the bees.

  3. Americasbeekeeper

    Americasbeekeeper New Member

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    Jason Graham at the University of Florida is doing bumblebee research here. His first thesis was on habitat but he is continuing on with related bumblebee topics.
  4. Barbarian

    Barbarian New Member

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    Disease Spread

    A copy of the scientific paper can be found via the "News" section of the web-page of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust -----

    A worrying aspect is that one million bumblebee colonies are imported annually to countries around the world.
  5. efmesch

    efmesch Active Member

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    Another indication that hindsight is more accurate than foresight.
    Once again we're ffaced with having to close the gate after the horses have escaped.
    Just how many pest species have extended their spread around the world by our assorted methods of intentional and unintentional introductions?
    It's scary.
  6. Ray

    Ray Member

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    I couldn't agree more, efmesch!
    Oh, and I didn't realize you stuttered "Once again we're ffaced with..."[​IMG]
  7. efmesch

    efmesch Active Member

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    MMy KKKeyboard is a professssional stuttterer. SSometimes I don't catch them alllllll.
    (how does one oil a ssticky computer keyboard?) :rolling: