Pathogen prevalence in commercially reared bumble bees and evidence of spillover in conspecific populations

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Journal Article
Biological Conservation, 2013, 159 pp. 269 - 276
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Worldwide, wild bumble bees (Bombus spp.) are experiencing marked declines, with potentially up to 11% of species currently under threat. Recent studies from North America suggest that disease transmission from commercially reared bumble bees to wild populations has led to marked range contractions in some species. In Europe, data on the prevalence of pathogen spillover from commercial to wild bumble bee populations is lacking, despite the widespread production and transport of hives within the EU since the early 1980s. We determined the permeability of cropping systems to commercial bumble bees, and quantified the prevalence of four pathogens in commercial Bombus terrestris hives and adjacent conspecific populations at increasing distances from greenhouses in Ireland. Commercial bumble bees collected from 31% to 97% of non-crop pollen, depending on the cropping system, and hives had markedly higher frequencies of two gut parasites, Crithidia spp. and Nosema bombi, compared to adjacent populations, but were free of tracheal mites. The highest prevalence of Crithida was observed within 2. km of greenhouses and the probability of infection declined in a host sex- and pathogen-specific manner up to 10. km. We suggest implementing measures that prevent the interaction of commercially reared and wild bumble bees by integrating the enforcement of national best management practices for users of commercial pollinators with international legislation that regulates the sanitation of commercial hives in production facilities. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd.
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