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article imageBumblebees at higher risk from infectious diseases

By Tim Sandle     Mar 10, 2015 in Environment
London - A range or viruses, previously thought only to infect honeybees, appear to pose a new risk to bumblebees. New research highlights the risk to these important pollinators of agricultural crops and wild flowers.
One of the viruses has recently been known of: the deformed wing virus. This virus, which attacks the wings if the bee, crossed over from managed honeybees to wild bumblebee populations. Now further viruses have been detected.
A new study has characterized five viruses. These are: black queen cell virus, deformed wing virus, acute bee paralysis virus, slow bee paralysis virus and sacbrood virus. Each virus has been named after the ill-health effect and diseases manifestation in honeybees.
The array of viruses have been detected within the U.K., across 26 different locales. The rates of infection were found to vary, with some being higher in honeybees and some being more prevalent in bumblebees. These different rates suggest that different management and conservation practices are required. The likely point of transfer is thought to be flowers, where honeybees leave viral particles behind and which are then picked up the honeybee.
The results of the study are significant. It was, until recently, unknown that viruses could readily spread between different pollinator species of bee. Furthermore, bumblebees were thought to be relatively disease free compared with honeybees.
Bumblebees have a fat and furry appearance. Different species have different lengths of tongue. For this reason, the bees feed from different shaped flowers. Bumblebees only produce a small amount of a honey-like substance, which they eat themselves. They are, however, important pollinators. Honeybees are much smaller and shave a slim appearance. Honeybees produce large quantities of honey, which beekeepers can harvest.
The findings have been published in the Journal of Animal Ecology. The research paper is titled “A sting in the spit: widespread cross-infection of multiple RNA viruses across wild and managed bees.”
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