Saving bees ‘to death’? Our efforts to grow the honeybee population by using artificial hives may harm other pollinators

Bombus terrestris, a species of bumblebee
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Everyone wants to save the bees. But as populations decline every year, we may be saving them to death. Human efforts to breed more of these insects in artificial beehives and plant more flowers may seem the obvious way to stave off heavy losses.

New research shows the answer is not that clear cut, because viruses may be spilling over from commercial honeybee colonies into wild bee populations, according to a study from the University of Vermont published Wednesday in PLOS One.

[T]he study revealed wild bumblebees pick up more viruses the closer they forage to managed honeybee colonies. But if bumblebees don’t venture into the commercial hives, how are they picking up viruses?

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Flowers have been suspected as reservoirs for bee viruses, but no researcher had linked virus deposits on flowers to bumblebee infections in the wild until this study.

The team looked at two viruses — deformed wing virus and black queen cell virus — both of which infect honeybees and bumblebees. These infections can potentially cause significant colony damage in honeybees, but researchers don’t know yet what they do to bumblebee colonies.

Read full, original article: Are commercial honeybees making wild bees sick?

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