Thursday, 27 November 2014

Role Of Stress, Flower Loss In Bee Population Declines Investigated

Chuck Bednar for – Your Universe Online

The loss of wildflowers could be a bigger threat to bee populations than climate change, but stress management could help save these essential pollinators, according to the researchers behind a pair of recently-published studies.

Experts have long known that bees, and honeybees in particular, currently face a vast array of different threats, including pesticides and the parasitic Varroa mite. Now, a paper published Monday in the journal Trends in Parasitology have found that stress could be one of the primary causes of recent widespread losses in honeybee colonies in the northern hemisphere.

More specifically, the study authors report that a complex and mysterious interplay of different stresses and their impact on the health and immune systems of bees could be at fault. As a result, bees have grown weaker and have become more susceptible to diseases that insects can ordinarily carry without issue. The Italian researchers behind the study believe that stress management and improved nutrition could help rectify the situation.

Honeybees live in complex societies frequently characterized by densely packed populations, and as a result have developed unique mechanisms for interacting with pathogens, the researchers explained. However, pathogens such as Deformed Wing Virus (DWV) can cause asymptomatic infections normally contained by their immune systems, and stress factors can synergistically promote replication of the disease and symptomatic infections.

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