The relationship between managed bees and the prevalence of parasites in bumblebees

Peter Graystock*, Dave Goulson, William O H Hughes

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

83 Citations (Scopus)


Honey bees and, more recently, bumblebees have been domesticated and are now managed commercially primarily for crop pollination, mixing with wild pollinators during foraging on shared flower resources. There is mounting evidence that managed honey bees or commercially produced bumblebees may affect the health of wild pollinators such as bumblebees by increasing competition for resources and the prevalence of parasites in wild bees. Here we screened 764 bumblebees fromaround five greenhouses that either used commercially produced bumblebees or did not, as well as bumblebees from 10 colonies placed at two sites either close to or far from a honey bee apiary, for the parasites Apicystis bombi, Crithidia bombi, Nosema bombi, N. ceranae, N. apis and deformed wing virus.We found that A. bombi and C. bombi were more prevalent around greenhouses using commercially produced bumblebees, while C. bombi was 18% more prevalent in bumblebees at the site near to the honey bee apiary than those at the site far fromthe apiary.Whilst these results are fromonly a limited number of sites, they support previous reports of parasite spillover from commercially produced bumblebees to wild bumblebees, and suggest that the impact of stress fromcompeting with managed bees or the vectoring of parasites by themon parasite prevalence in wild bees needs further investigation. It appears increasingly likely that the use of managed bees comes at a cost of increased parasites in wild bumblebees, which is not only a concern for bumblebee conservation, but which may impact other pollinators as well.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere522
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014


  • Commercial bumblebee production
  • Honeybee
  • Pathogen spillover
  • Pollinator conservation


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