Thursday, February 20, 2014

Honeybees passing deadly virus onto bumblebees, which are also important pollinators

A virus has led to a decline in the world population of the honeybee, a species that the agriculture industry relies on to pollinate 90 crops that generate $14 billion a year. Now a study published this week in the journal Nature finds that wild bumblebees are getting the virus from honeybees, leading to a steady decline in their population. This matters because bumblebees "provide a significant chunk of the world’s pollination of flowers and food, especially greenhouse tomatoes,"  Seth Borenstein reports for The Associated Press. Bumblebees provide about "$3 billion worth of fruit and flower pollination in the United States." (AP file photo)

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

The study, which tracked nearly 750 bees in 26 sites throughout Great Britain, and also examined captive bees to see how the disease spreads, found that the average life span of bumblebees was reduced to 15 days from 21 days, Borenstein writes. "And while honeybee hives have tens of thousands of workers and can afford to lose some, bumblebee hives only have hundreds at the most." University of Illinois entomology professor May Berenbaum told Borenstein, ‘‘It’s like Wal-Mart versus a mom-and-pop store." (Read more)

No comments: