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PeerJ. 2014 Aug 12;2:e522. doi: 10.7717/peerj.522. eCollection 2014.

The relationship between managed bees and the prevalence of parasites in bumblebees.

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School of Biology, University of Leeds , Leeds , UK.
School of Life Sciences, University of Sussex , Brighton , UK.


Honey bees and, more recently, bumblebees have been domesticated and are now managed commercially primarily for crop pollination, mixing with wild pollinators during foraging on shared flower resources. There is mounting evidence that managed honey bees or commercially produced bumblebees may affect the health of wild pollinators such as bumblebees by increasing competition for resources and the prevalence of parasites in wild bees. Here we screened 764 bumblebees from around five greenhouses that either used commercially produced bumblebees or did not, as well as bumblebees from 10 colonies placed at two sites either close to or far from a honey bee apiary, for the parasites Apicystis bombi, Crithidia bombi, Nosema bombi, N. ceranae, N. apis and deformed wing virus. We found that A. bombi and C. bombi were more prevalent around greenhouses using commercially produced bumblebees, while C. bombi was 18% more prevalent in bumblebees at the site near to the honey bee apiary than those at the site far from the apiary. Whilst these results are from only a limited number of sites, they support previous reports of parasite spillover from commercially produced bumblebees to wild bumblebees, and suggest that the impact of stress from competing with managed bees or the vectoring of parasites by them on parasite prevalence in wild bees needs further investigation. It appears increasingly likely that the use of managed bees comes at a cost of increased parasites in wild bumblebees, which is not only a concern for bumblebee conservation, but which may impact other pollinators as well.


Commercial bumblebee production; Honeybee; Pathogen spillover; Pollinator conservation

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