Improved Regulation Needed As Pesticides Found to Affect Genes in Bees

EurekAlert From: Queen Mary University of London March 6, 2019

Bumblebee Colony Credit: TJ Colgan

Bumblebee Colony Credit: TJ Colgan

Scientists are urging for improved regulation on pesticides after finding that they affect genes in bumblebees, according to research led by Queen Mary University of London in collaboration with Imperial College London.

For the first time, researchers applied a biomedically inspired approach to examine changes in the 12,000 genes that make up bumblebee workers and queens after pesticide exposure.

The study, published in Molecular Ecology, shows that genes which may be involved in a broad range of biological processes are affected.

They also found that queens and workers respond differently to pesticide exposure and that one pesticide they tested had much stronger effects than the other did.

Other recent studies, including previous work by the authors, have revealed that exposure even to low doses of these neurotoxic pesticides is detrimental to colony function and survival as it impairs bee behaviours including the ability to obtain pollen and nectar from flowers and the ability to locate their nests.

This new approach provides high-resolution information about what is happening at a molecular level inside the bodies of the bumblebees.

Some of these changes in gene activity may represent the mechanisms that link intoxification to impaired behaviour.

Lead author of the study Dr Yannick Wurm, from Queen Mary University of London, said: "Governments had approved what they thought were 'safe' levels but pesticides intoxicate many pollinators, reducing their dexterity and cognition and ultimately survival. This is a major risk because pollinators are declining worldwide yet are essential for maintaining the stability of the ecosystem and for pollinating crops.

"While newer pesticide evaluation aims to consider the impact on behaviour, our work demonstrates a highly sensitive approach that can dramatically improve how we evaluate the effects of pesticides."

The researchers exposed colonies of bumblebees to either clothianidin or imidacloprid at field-realistic concentrations while controlling for factors including colony social environment and worker age.

They found clothianidin had much stronger effects than imidacloprid - both of which are in the category of 'neonicotinoid' pesticides and both of which are still used worldwide although they were banned in 2018 for outdoor use by the European Union.

For worker bumblebees, the activity levels of 55 genes were changed by exposure to clothianidin with 31 genes showing higher activity levels while the rest showed lower activity levels after exposure.

This could indicate that their bodies are reorienting resources to try to detoxify, which the researchers suspect is what some of the genes are doing. For other genes, the changes could represent the intermediate effects of intoxification that lead to affected behaviour.

The trend differed in queen bumblebees as 17 genes had changed activity levels, with 16 of the 17 having higher activity levels after exposure to the clothianidin pesticide.

Dr Joe Colgan, first author of the study and also from Queen Mary University of London, said: "This shows that worker and queen bumblebees are differently wired and that the pesticides do not affect them in the same way. As workers and queens perform different but complementary activities essential for colony function, improving our understanding of how both types of colony member are affected by pesticides is vital for assessing the risks these chemicals pose."

The researchers believe that the approach they have demonstrated must now be applied more broadly. This will provide detailed information on how pesticides differ in the effects they have on beneficial species, and why species may differ in their susceptibility.

Dr Colgan said: "We examined the effects of two pesticides on one species of bumblebee. But hundreds of pesticides are authorised, and their effects are likely to substantially differ across the 200,000 pollinating insect species which also include other bees, wasps, flies, moths, and butterflies."

Dr Wurm added: "Our work demonstrates that the type of high-resolution molecular approach that has changed the way human diseases are researched and diagnosed, can also be applied to beneficial pollinators. This approach provides an unprecedented view of how bees are being affected by pesticides and works at large scale. It can fundamentally improve how we evaluate the toxicity of chemicals we put into nature."

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Research paper: 'Caste- and pesticide-specific effects of neonicotinoid pesticide exposure on gene expression in bumblebees'. Thomas J. Colgan, Isabel K. Fletcher, Andres N. Arce, Richard J. Gill, Ana Ramos Rodrigues, Eckart Stolle, Lars Chittka and Yannick Wurm. Molecular Ecology.

https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2019-03/qmuo-irn030519.php

The More Pesticides Bees Eat, The More They Like Them

Science Daily / Imperial College London     August 28, 2018

Bumblebee. Credit: © Jolanta Mayerberg / FotoliaBumblebees acquire a taste for pesticide-laced food as they become more exposed to it, a behaviour showing possible symptoms of addiction.

This study of bumblebee behaviour indicates that the risk of pesticide-contaminated food entering bee colonies may be higher than previously thought, which can have impacts on colony reproductive success.

In research published today in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, a team from Imperial College London and Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) have shown that bumblebee colonies increasingly feed on pesticide-laced food (sugar solution) over time.

The researchers tested the controversial class of pesticides the 'neonicotinoids', which are currently one of the most widely used classes of pesticides worldwide, despite the near-total ban in the EU. The impact of neonicotinoids on bees is hotly debated, and the ban is a decision that has received mixed views.

Lead researcher Dr Richard Gill, from the Department of Life Sciences at Imperial, said: "Given a choice, naïve bees appear to avoid neonicotinoid-treated food. However, as individual bees increasingly experience the treated food they develop a preference for it.

"Interestingly, neonicotinoids target nerve receptors in insects that are similar to receptors targeted by nicotine in mammals. Our findings that bumblebees acquire a taste for neonicotinoids ticks certain symptoms of addictive behaviour, which is intriguing given the addictive properties of nicotine on humans, although more research is needed to determine this in bees."

The team tracked ten bumblebee colonies over ten days, giving each colony access to its own foraging arena in which bees could choose feeders that did or did not contain a neonicotinoid.

They found that while the bees preferred the pesticide-free food to begin with, over time they fed on the pesticide-laced food more and visited the pesticide-free food less. They continued to prefer the pesticide-laced food even when the positions of the feeders were changed, suggesting they can detect the pesticide inside the food.

Lead author Dr Andres Arce, from the Department of Life Sciences at Imperial, said: "Many studies on neonicotinoids feed bees exclusively with pesticide-laden food, but in reality, wild bees have a choice of where to feed. We wanted to know if the bees could detect the pesticides and eventually learn to avoid them by feeding on the uncontaminated food we were offering.

"Whilst at first it appeared that the bees did avoid the food containing the pesticide, we found that over time the bumblebees increased their visits to pesticide-laden food. We now need to conduct further studies to try and understand the mechanism behind why they acquire this preference."

Dr Gill added: "This research expands on important previous work by groups at Newcastle and Dublin Universities. Here, we added a time dimension and allowed the bees to carry out more normal foraging behaviour, to understand the dynamics of pesticide preference. Together these studies allow us to properly assess the risks of exposure and not just the hazard posed.

"Whilst neonicotinoids are controversial, if the effects of replacements on non-target insects are not understood, then I believe it is sensible that we take advantage of current knowledge and further studies to provide guidance for using neonicotinoids more responsibly, rather than necessarily an outright ban."


Story Source:

Materials provided by Imperial College London. Original written by Hayley Dunning. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

Andres N. Arce, Ana Ramos Rodrigues, Jiajun Yu, Thomas J. Colgan, Yannick Wurm, Richard J. Gill. Foraging bumblebees acquire a preference for neonicotinoid-treated food with prolonged exposure. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 2018; 285 (1885): 20180655 DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2018.0655

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/08/180828204911.htm?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=facebook

Clever Bees Can Identify Different Flowers by Patterns of Scent

June 14, 2018

 


Certain aromas trigger memories in humans, transporting us back in time. But how well do bees understand scent? And can they translate scent cues into a visual imprint? New research led by scientists from the University of Bristol and Queen Mary University of London demonstrates that bumble bees have keen sniffers, letting them tell flowers apart by patterns of scent.

Flowers have lots of different patterns on their surfaces that help to guide bees and other pollinators towards the flower's nectar, speeding up pollination. These patterns include visual signals like lines pointing to the center of the flower, or color differences. Flowers are also known to have different patterns of scent across their surface, and so a visiting bee might find that the centre of the flower smells differently to the edge of the petals.

Bumble bees can tell flowers apart simply by how scent is arranged on their surface according to new research published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Lead author Dr. Dave Lawson, from the University of Bristol's School of Biological Sciences, said: "If you look at a flower with a microscope, you can often see that the cells that produce the flower's scent are arranged in patterns.

"By creating artificial flowers that have identical scents arranged in different patterns, we are able to show that this patterning might be a signal to a bee. For a flower, it's not just smelling nice that's important, but also where you put the scent in the first place."

The study also shows that once bees had learnt how a pattern of scent was arranged on a flower, they then preferred to visit unscented flowers that had a similar arrangement of visual spots on their surface.

Dr. Lawson added: "This is the equivalent of a human putting her hand in a bag to feel the shape of a novel object which she can't see, and then picking out a picture of that object. Being able to mentally switch between different senses is something we take for granted, but it's exciting that a small animal like a bee is also able to do something this abstract."

Professor Lars Chittka, from Queen Mary's School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, said: "We already knew that bees were clever, but we were really surprised by the fact that bees could learn invisible patterns on flowers - patterns that were just made of scent.

"The scent glands on our flowers were either arranged in a circle or a cross, and bees had to figure out these patterns by using their feelers. But the most exciting finding was that, if these patterns are suddenly made visible by the experimenter, bees can instantly recognize the image that formerly was just an ephemeral pattern of volatiles in the air."

Senior author, Dr. Sean Rands, also from Bristol, added: "Flowers often advertise to their pollinators in lots of different ways at once, using a mixture of color, shape, texture, and enticing smells.

"If bees can learn patterns using one sense (smell) and then transfer this to a different sense (vision), it makes sense that flowers advertise in lots of ways at the same time, as learning one signal will mean that the bee is primed to respond positively to different signals that they have never encountered.

"Advertising agencies would be very excited if the same thing happened in humans."

Around 75 percent of all food grown globally relies on flowers being pollinated by animals such as bees. The work published today is part of ongoing research at the University of Bristol that explores the many different ways in which plants communicate with their pollinators, using different innovative techniques to explore how bees perceive the flowers that they visit.

http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/285/1880/20180661

Bumblebees Learned to Pull Strings for Reward

Associative Mechanisms Allow for Social Lerning and Cultural Transmission of String Pulling in an Insect - Published October 5, 2016 PLOS Biology: http://journals.plos.org/plosbiology/article?id=10.1371/journal.pbio.1002564

Bumblebees Learned to Pull Strings For Reward
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NKH3D2SBG4M

Researchers trained bumblebees in a stepwise manner to pull a string to access a reward (sucrose). Other bumblebees learned by observing trained demonstrators from a distance. Only a small minority solved the task spontaneously. The experiments suggest that learning a nonnatural task in bumblebees can spread culturally through populations

Credit:
Associative Mechanisms Allow for Social Learning and Cultural Transmission of String Pulling in an Insect  Sylvain Alem, Clint J. Perry, Xingfu Zhu, Olli J. Loukola, Thomas Ingraham, Eirik Søvik, Lars Chittka

http://journals.plos.org/plosbiology/article?id=10.1371/journal.pbio.1002564

Primitive Signs of Emotions Spotted in Sugar-Buzzed Bumblebees

science Daily     By Emily Underwood     September 30, 2016

After a treat, insects appeared to have rosier outlooks

BUZZED Bumblebees seem to get a mood boost from sweets, a new study shows.

To human observers, bumblebees sipping nectar from flowers appear cheerful. It turns out that the insects may actually enjoy their work. A new study suggests that bees experience a “happy” buzz after receiving a sugary snack, although it’s probably not the same joy that humans experience chomping on a candy bar.

Scientists can’t ask bees or other animals how they feel. Instead, researchers must look for signs of positive or negative emotions in an animal’s decision making or behavior, says Clint Perry, a neuroethologist at Queen Mary University of London. In one such study, for example, scientists shook bees vigorously in a machine for 60 seconds — hard enough to annoy, but not hard enough to cause injury — and found that stressed bees made more pessimistic decisions while foraging for food.

The new study, published in the Sept. 30 Science, is the first to look for signs of positive bias in bee decision making, Perry says. His team trained 35 bees to navigate a small arena connected to a plastic tunnel. When the tunnel was marked with a blue flower, the bees learned that a tasty vial of sugar water awaited them at its end. When a green flower was present, there was no reward. Once the bees learned the difference, the scientists threw the bees a curveball: Rather than being blue or green, the flower had a confusing blue-green hue.

Faced with the ambiguous blossom, the bees appeared to dither, meandering around for roughly 100 seconds before deciding whether to enter the tunnel. Some didn’t enter at all. But when the scientists gave half the bees a treat — a drop of concentrated sugar water — that group spent just 50 seconds circling the entrance before deciding to check it out. Overall, the two groups flew roughly the same distances at the same speeds, suggesting that the group that had gotten a treat first had not simply experienced a boost in energy from the sugar, but were in a more positive, optimistic state, Perry says.

In a separate experiment, Perry and colleagues simulated a spider attack on the bees by engineering a tiny arm that darted out and immobilized them with a sponge. Sugar-free bees took about 50 seconds longer than treated bees to resume foraging after the harrowing encounter.

The researchers then applied a solution to the bees’ thoraxes that blocked the action of dopamine, one of several chemicals that transmit rewarding signals in the insect brain. With dopamine blocked, the effects of the sugar treat disappeared, further suggesting that a change in mood, and not just increased energy, was responsible for the bees’ behavior.

The results provide the first evidence for positive, emotion-like states in bees, says Ralph Adolphs, a neuroscientist at Caltech. Yet he suspects that the metabolic effects of sugar did influence the bees’ behavior.

Geraldine Wright, a neuroethologist at Newcastle University in England, shares that concern. “The data reported in the paper doesn’t quite convince me that eating sucrose didn’t change how they behaved, even though they say it didn’t affect flight time or speed of flight,” she says. “I would be very cautious in interpreting the responses of bees in this assay as a positive emotional state.”

https://www.sciencenews.org/article/primitive-signs-emotions-spotted-sugar-buzzed-bumblebees

Bumblebee Skilled at "buzz pollination" May Soon Join the Endangered Species

The Los Angeles Times    By Jessica Roy   September 22, 2016

A rusty patched bumblebee collects pollen from a flower. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has formally recommended the bee species for endangered status. (Rich Hatfield/Xerces Society)A type of bumblebee native to North America may soon be named to the endangered species list. It would be the first bee species to be considered endangered in the United States.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Thursday formally proposed that the Bombus affinis, or rusty patched bumblebee, be listed as endangered under the guidelines of the Endangered Species Act.

"As pollinators, rusty patched bumblebees contribute to our food security and the healthy functioning of our ecosystems," the Fish and Wildlife Service said in a statement. The federal agency estimates that native insect species, particularly bees, contribute $3 billion in economic value annually in the United States. Because of a specialized pollen-shedding movement called "buzz pollination," bumblebee species are better at pollinating some crops than honeybees.

The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation filed a formal petition in 2013 seeking to place the rusty patched bumblebee on the endangered list. According to the conservation organization, the species' population has declined 87% in recent years.

Another Xerces Society petition on Change.org has garnered more than 128,000 signatures this year alone.

Rusty patched bumblebees contribute to our food security and the healthy functioning of our ecosystems.— U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The bees’ decline can be attributed to habitat loss, climate changedisease, farming andpesticides, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service.

The rusty patched bumblebee — so named for a distinctive colored patch on the abdomens of worker bees — is particularly apt at pollinating cranberries, plums, alfalfa, onion seed and apples. Its life cycle begins earlier in spring and extends later into the fall than most other types of bumblebees.

The species used to be found across at least 26 states in the Midwest and Northeast; in recent years, sightings have shrunk to just a few states, the Xerces Society reported.

Per the rules of the Endangered Species Act, the next step is a 60-day period in which members of the public, scientists and government agencies can submit expert opinions and other input. Comments may be submitted online until Nov. 21. 

After that, the Fish and Wildlife Service will announce its decision. 

http://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-bumble-bees-endangered-20160922-snap-story.html

Small Farms Benefit Significantly From a Few Extra Pollinators

  January 21, 2016

American Association for the Advancement of Science

A white-tailed bumblebee (Bombus lucorum) pollinating a sunflower (Helianthus sp.).

This material relates to a paper that will appear in the 22 January 2016, issue of Science, published by AAAS. The paper, by Lucas Alejandro Garibaldi at Instituto de Investigaciones en Recursos Naturales, Agroecología y Desarrollo Rural (IRNAD) in Río Negro, Argentina, and colleagues was titled, "Mutually beneficial pollinator diversity and crop yield outcomes in small and large farms." Credit: Arnstein Staverløkk

Higher numbers of pollinators can significantly increase crop productivity of small-sized farms, while large farms experience a similar yield benefit only if increases in pollinator density are accompanied by diversity, a new study finds. More than two billion people are reliant on small-scale agriculture in developing nations, and while much evidence demonstrates that pollinators can beneficially affect crop yield, how these helpful critters affect small-scale farms compared to larger farms is mostly unknown. To gain more insights, Lucas Garibaldi et al. analyzed 344 fields of small and large holdings in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, recording the number of pollinators (density), their biodiversity, and the yield of each crop over a five-year period. For small holdings less than two hectares, their analysis found that yield gaps -- the difference between crops that yielded the most produce compared to those that yielded the least -- could be closed by 24% through higher pollinator density; the authors note that the remaining 76% of the yield gap may be partially closed by technologies that optimize other agricultural factors, such as nutrients and water. In contrast, for larger holdings, a similar yield benefit from pollinator density only occurred if accompanied by high pollinator diversity. The authors suggest that large crops may benefit less from pollinator density because these are more likely to be pollinated by flower visitors with longer foraging ranges, which are usually generalist species, such as honey bees. Although pollinator dynamics are being increasingly threatened in agroecosystems because of declining floral abundance and diversity, the authors note that there are opportunities to reverse the trend by a number of different means, including planting flower strips, more targeted use of pesticides, and restoring natural areas adjacent to crops.

Bees Able to Spot Which Flowers Offer Best Rewards Before Landing

University of Exeter   July 30, 2014

Bumblebees are able to connect differences in pollen quality with floral features, like petal colour, and so land only on the flowers that offer the best rewards, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Exeter.

Unlike nectar, bees do not ingest pollen whilst foraging on flowers, and so until now it has been unclear whether they are able to form associative relationships between what a flower looks like and the quality of its pollen.

The study used bumblebee foragers housed under controlled conditions to test whether they do learn about flowers during pollen collection.

Their results show that bumblebees can individually assess pollen samples and discriminate between them during collection, quickly forming preferences for a particular type of pollen.

The findings, published today in the Journal of Experimental Biology, indicate that pollen foraging behaviour involves learning and individual decision-making, which may allow bees to quickly learn which flowers provide the most nutritious pollen rewards for rearing their young.

Dr Natalie Hempel de Ibarra, Senior Lecturer in Neuroethology at the University of Exeter, said: “There is still very little known about how bees decide which flowers to visit for pollen collection. Easily learning floral features based on pollen rewards, without needing any nectar rewards, is a fast and effective way to recognise those flower species which bees have previously experienced to be the best ones.”

Dr Elizabeth Nicholls, a former PhD student at The University of Exeter and now a Post Doctoral Research Fellow at the University of Sussex, said: “Bees need to be able to select flowers providing the most nutritious food for rearing their young. Since bumblebees don’t eat pollen when foraging, it was unclear if or how they might be able to assess differences in quality. Here we’ve shown that they are able to detect differences in pollen, even before landing, which means they may be able to tell, just from the colour of the petals, which flowers are worth visiting.   

“We already know a lot about how and what bees learn when collecting nectar from flowers, but since bees don’t eat pollen when foraging, we were interested to see whether they could still learn which flowers to visit when collecting this resource.”

The experiments involved manipulating the quality of pollen offered to the bees by diluting the samples. The researchers examined what they preferred to collect, if they could differentiate quality before landing by only letting the bees smell and see the pollen rather than probing it; and presenting the bees with four different coloured discs containing stronger and less diluted pollen to record preferences and change of preferences over time.

Dr Hempel de Ibarra is a member of the Centre for Research in Animal Behaviour (CRAB) within Psychology, where her BBSRC-funded work investigates how colour patterns are seen and learnt by bees.

http://www.exeter.ac.uk/news/featurednews/title_404970_en.html

Bees From The Inside Out

National Science Foundation    July 7, 2014

It is 1,825 miles from New Haven, Conn., to Austin, Tex., which typically means 30 hours of driving and three nights in motels, not an easy trip for anyone. But for researchers moving from Yale University to a new lab at the University of Texas last August, it proved especially challenging. They made the journey in a minivan with a pet cat and 100,000 bees.

"That was probably the most heroic event in our beekeeping saga to date," says evolutionary biologist Nancy Moran, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin, who studies symbiosis, particularly among multi-cellular hosts and microbes. "We didn't want to be without bees upon arrival in Texas, and...

Continue reading... http://www.nsf.gov/discoveries/disc_summ.jsp?org=NSF&cntn_id=131953&preview=false

The Buzz About Bumblebees: National Wildlife Federation

The Buzz at OSU   By Denise Ellsworth   4/15/14

Across North America and beyond, bumblebees are in trouble, but gardeners can help these critical pollinators. 

TO BIOLOGIST SAM DROEGE, they are “the teddy bears of the bee world.” Fat, fuzzy and occasionally clumsy fliers, “bumblebees are cute,” says Droege, who heads the U.S. Geological Survey’s Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab. “People project emotions on them”—an assertion backed by the many children’s books and songs featuring bumblebees.

All members of the genus Bombus, the world’s roughly 250 bumblebee species are critical pollinators. In natural ecosystems, bees are by far the most important pollinators of native plants, and the insects are essential to producing more than a third of the foods and beverages humans consume—an industry worth hundreds of billions of dollars annually. Bumblebees are particularly major players: Because their large bodies allow them to generate heat, the insects can fly earlier and later in the day and in colder weather than most bee species, including honeybees.

Bumblebees are also strong flyers. Powered by contractions of the thorax, or midsection, the insects’ wings beat 130 or more times per second. That prowess, combined with their size, allows bumblebees to perform a unique service, “buzz pollination” (vibrating flowers until they release pollen), that helps plants produce more fruit. And bumblebees’ significance as pollinators has been growing in recent years as managed colonies of European honeybees decline.

But it turns out that bumblebees are in trouble, too. In North America, four once-common, widespread Bombus species have vanishedfrom large portions of their former ranges. A fifth may already be extinct...

Read more...

Bye Bye Bumblebees

Global Possibilities    4/2/14

A Quarter of Europe's Bumblebees, Vital to Agriculture, Face Extinction 

OSLO, April 2 (Reuters) – Almost a quarter of Europe’s bumblebees are at risk of extinction due to loss of habitats and climate change, threatening pollination of crops worth billions of dollars, a study showed on Wednesday.

Sixteen of 68 bumblebee species in Europe are at risk, the Red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) said. It is preparing a global study of the bees, whose honeybee cousins are in steep decline because of disease.

“Of the five most important insect pollinators of European crops, three are bumblebee species,” said the IUCN, which groups governments, scientists and conservation groups.

“Together with other pollinators, bumblebees contribute more than 22 billion euros ($30.35 billion) to European agriculture a year,” it said in a statement.

Of Europe’s bumblebee species, populations of almost half are falling and just 13 percent are increasing, it said.

Often with yellow and black stripes and bigger than honeybees, bumblebees live in small nests of up to 200 and do not make honeycombs. Some bumblebees are commercially bred to pollinate tomatoes, peppers and aubergines in greenhouses.

“Climate change, the intensification of agriculture and changes in agricultural land are the main threats” to bumblebees, said the report, the first Red List assessment of threats to bumblebees.

The European Union’s top environment official said the 28-nation bloc was taking action to improve the situation.

“The EU recently banned or restricted the use of certain pesticides that are dangerous to bees and is funding research into status of pollinators,” said EU Environment Commissioner Janez Potonik in a statement.

“However, efforts clearly need to be scaled up,” he added. The IUCN study was funded by the European Commission.

DISEASE

The study did not mention the possibility that honeybee diseases were spreading to bumblebees.

A study in the journal Nature in February said that deformed wing virus, for instance, was found in both honeybees and bumblebees in Britain. The virus was more prevalent in honeybees, suggesting it was spreading from them to bumblebees.

“In general, we don’t know a lot about bumblebee disease,” Stuart Roberts, a member of the IUCN’s global bumblebee assessment team, told Reuters.

“Some of these threatened bumblebees are isolated, living in the Arctic or the Alps,” he said. “In those places the chance of picking up a disease from a honeybee is almost nil.”

The Arctic species Bombus hyperboreus, living in the Scandinavian tundra and Russia, is vulnerable because global warming is shrinking its habitat, the study said.

Populations of the critically endangered Bombus cullumanus, now found only in France, have fallen by more than 80 percent in the past decade, apparently because of a reduction in the amount of meadows with clover, its favourite forage, the study added.

Only queen bumblebees survive the winter.

Honeybees, living in longer-lasting colonies of thousands of bees, make honeycombs largely to ensure that the insects have food to survive months with no nectar-making flowers. ($1 = 0.7249 Euros) (Editing by Gareth Jones)

Bumblebees Getting Stung Bad By Honeybee Sickness

kxnex.com   By Seth Borenstein    2/19/14   

WASHINGTON (AP) - Wild bumblebees worldwide are in trouble, likely contracting deadly diseases from their commercialized honeybee cousins, a new study shows.

That's a problem even though bumblebees aren't trucked from farm to farm like honeybees. They provide a significant chunk of the world's pollination of flowers and food, especially greenhouse tomatoes, insect experts said. And the ailments are hurting bumblebees even more, according to a study published Wednesday in the journal Nature.

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

Smaller studies have shown disease going back and forth between the two kinds of bees. Brown said his is the first to look at the problem in a larger country-wide scale and include three diseases and parasites. The study tracked nearly 750 bees in 26 sites throughout Great Britain. And it also did lab work on captive bees to show disease spread...

Read more... http://www.kxnet.com/story/24765845/bumblebees-getting-stung-bad-by-honeybee-sickness

Related Article: http://cir.ca/news/bees-are-disappearing

Disease Associations Between Honeybees and Bumblebees as a Threat to Wild Pollinators

Nature.com  M. A. FürstD. P. McMahonJ. L. OsborneR. J. Paxton M. J. F. Brown  2/20/14

Emerging infectious diseases (EIDs) pose a risk to human welfare, both directly1 and indirectly, by affecting managed livestock and wildlife that provide valuable resources and ecosystem services, such as the pollination of crops2. Honeybees (Apis mellifera), the prevailing managed insect crop pollinator, suffer from a range of emerging and exotic high-impact pathogens34, and population maintenance requires active management by beekeepers to control them. Wild pollinators such as bumblebees (Bombus spp.) are in global decline56, one cause of which may be pathogen spillover from managed pollinators like honeybees78 or commercial colonies of bumblebees9. Here we use a combination of infection experiments and landscape-scale field data to show that honeybee EIDs are indeed widespread infectious agents within the pollinator assemblage. The prevalence of deformed wing virus (DWV) and the exotic parasite Nosema ceranae in honeybees and bumblebees is linked; as honeybees have higher DWV prevalence, and sympatric bumblebees and honeybees are infected by the same DWV strains, Apis is the likely source of at least one major EID in wild pollinators. Lessons learned from vertebrates1011 highlight the need for increased pathogen control in managed bee species to maintain wild pollinators, as declines in native pollinators may be caused by interspecies pathogen transmission originating from managed pollinators.

Read at:  http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v506/n7488/full/nature12977.html?WT.ec_id=NATURE-20140220

Pesticides 'Making Bees Smaller'

The Guardian    1/20/14

Bumblebees exposed to a widely-used pesticide produced workers with lower body mass, scientists find

Bumblebees could be shrinking because of exposure to a widely-used pesticide, a study suggests. 

Experts fear smaller bees will be less effective at foraging for nectar and carrying out their vital task of distributing pollen. 

Scientists in the UK conducted laboratory tests which showed how a pyrethroid pesticide stunted the growth of worker bumblebee larvae, causing them to hatch out reduced in size. 

Gemma Baron, one of the researchers from the School of Biological Sciences at Royal Holloway, University of London, said: "We already know that larger bumblebees are more effective at foraging. 

"Our result, revealing that this pesticide causes bees to hatch out at a smaller size, is of concern as the size of workers produced in the field is likely to be a key component of colony success, with smaller bees being less efficient at collecting nectar and pollen from flowers." 

Pyrethroid pesticides are commonly used on flowering crops to prevent insect damage. 

The study, the first to examine the pesticides' impact across the entire lifecycle of bumblebees, tracked the growth of bee colonies over a four month period. 

Researchers exposed half the bees to a pyrethroid while monitoring the size of the colonies as well as weighing individual insects on micro-scales. 

They found that worker bees from colonies affected by the pesticides over a prolonged period grew less and were significantly smaller than unexposed bees. 

Findings from the study, funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (Nerc), appear in the Journal of Applied Ecology

Professor Mark Brown, who led the Royal Holloway group, said: "Bumblebees are essential to our food chain so it's critical we understand how wild bees might be impacted by the chemicals we are putting into the environment. 

"We know we have to protect plants from insect damage but we need to find a balance and ensure we are not harming our bees in the process." 

Currently a Europe-wide moratorium on the use of three neonicotinoid pesticides is in force because of their alleged harmful effect on bees. 

As a result, the use of other types of pesticide, including pyrethroids, is likely to increase, say the researchers. 

Dr Nigel Raine, another member of the Royal Holloway team who will be speaking at this week's national Bee Health Conference in London, said: "Our work provides a significant step forward in understanding the detrimental impact of pesticides other than neonicotinoids on wild bees. 

"Further studies using colonies placed in the field are essential to understand the full impacts, and conducting such studies needs to be a priority for scientists and governments." 

The scientists sprayed the pesticide on the bees' pollen feed at the concentration recommended for oilseed rape. 

Colony growth and reproductive output were monitored for up to 14 weeks. 

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/jan/20/pesticides-making-bees-smaller

More Than Honey - A Review

Scientific American - Blog    By Felicity Muth 

Last night I went to see the documentary ‘More than honey’, directed and produced by the Swiss film-maker Markus Imhoof. As I work with bees (bumblebees) and have already read a bit about colony collapse disorder and honeybee farming I wasn’t expecting too much from the film: an education on all the crops bees are needed for, how they’re dying out and perhaps a plea for pesticides to be banned. However, I was pleasantly surprised, as the movie was not the science-education type of documentary I was expecting.

Fred Jaggi

The film starts in Switzerland, with a Swiss-German bee farmer, Fred Jaggi, who comes from a long line of bee keepers. We see him hiking through the Swiss mountains wearing a Swiss hat and smoking a pipe. The filming captures the beauty of the mountains and creates an atmosphere for this man’s rural, bee-centric life. We are introduced to his bees, and how he lovingly cares for them, but with strict rules and punishments if they violate these rules (for their own good, of course). I don’t want to give too much away, but let’s just say he’s a character.

From here we are transported to America, where we meet John Miller, of Miller Honey farms. He provides bees on a commercial scale to the almond farms in California, and then ships them over to farms in Idaho and North Dakota. Our first introduction to Miller is him standing in the almond farms under the acres of trees and buzzing bees...

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Bees Under Threat From Disease Carrying Bumblebee Imports, Research Reveals

Science Daily  7/18/13 

July 18, 2013 — Stricter controls over bumblebee imports to the UK are urgently required to prevent diseases spreading to native bumblebees and honeybees, scientists have warned. The call follows the discovery of parasites in over three-quarters of imported bumblebee colonies they tested. The study - the first of its kind in the UK - is published today in the Journal of Applied Ecology.

While wild species of bees and other insects pollinate many crops, commercially-reared and imported bumblebees are essential for pollination of greenhouse crops such as tomatoes. They are also used to...

(Although this is the first study of its kind in the UK, research in North America, South America and Japan suggests that parasites introduced by commercial bumblebees may be a major cause of population declines of several bumblebee species, including Bombus dahlbomii in Argentina, and Bombus terricolaand Bombus pensylvanicus in North America.)

Read more... http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/07/130717212007.htm

Bumblebees Use Logic to Find the Best Flowers

Science Daily  4/4/13

Scientists at Queen Mary, University of London and the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), have discovered why bees copy each other when looking for nectar -- and the answer is remarkably simple.

Despite their tiny brains, bees are smart enough to pick out the most attractive flowers by watching other bees and learning from their behaviour. By using simple logic, they see which coloured flowers are the most popular, and conclude that those of the same colour must also contain lots of energy-rich nectar.

"Learning where to find nectar by watching others seems fantastically complex for a tiny bee, but...

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Bees Attracted to Contrasting Colors When Looking for Nectar

Science Daily    2/21/13

Flower colors that contrast with their background are more important to foraging bees than patterns of colored veins on pale flowers according to new research, by Heather Whitney from the University of Cambridge in the UK, and her colleagues. Their observation of how patterns of pigmentation on flower petals influence bumblebees' behavior suggests that color veins give clues to the location of the nectar. There is little to suggest, however, that bees have an innate preference for striped flowers.

The work is published online in Springer's journalNaturwissenschaften -- The Science of Nature.

Very few flowers are...

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