Thursday, 7 April 2016

Commercial bumble bee industry amplified a fungal pathogen of bees, study suggest

Date: April 4, 2016

Source: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Scientists hoping to explain widespread declines in wild bumble bee populations have conducted the first long-term genetic study of Nosema bombi, a key fungal pathogen of honey bees and bumble bees.

Their study, reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that N. bombi was present in the U.S. as early as 1980, well before several species of wild bumble bees started to go missing across the country. The study also found that N. bombi infections in large-scale commercial bumble bee pollination operations coincided with infections and declines in wild bumble bees.

"We used molecular techniques to screen thousands of bumble bees to track Nosema infections before and after the bees began to decline," said University of Illinois entomology professor Sydney Cameron, who led the new research. "We wanted to test the idea floating about for a couple of decades that Nosema bombi prevalence in declining populations is connected with commercial production of bumble bees for pollination."

The study included an analysis of DNA sequence variation in N. bombi over time and in different geographical locations. For historical evidence of infection, the team turned to bee specimens in natural history collections in North America and Europe.



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