The deformed wing virus (DWV), known to be ubiquitous in honey bees, has now been detected in bumblebees. In addition, the neogregarine Apicystis bombi has been discovered to be more prevalent than previously thought. Here, we assess for the first time the lethal and sublethal effects of these parasites during single and mixed infections of worker bumblebees (Bombus terrestris). Overall, we find that A. bombi exhibits both lethal and sublethal effects. DWV causes lethal effect and may reduce the sub lethal effects imposed by A. bombi. The results show that both parasites have significant, negative effects on bumblebee health, making them potentially of conservation concern
In this work, I list the problems managed bees cause with specific examples from America, Asia and Europe and based on the evidence, suggest what practices could reduce the harm managed bees do to wild bees. We recommend first that the safety of bee transport be improved by employing rigorous disease screening of bees and creating unified international regulations to prevent the movement of diseased bees. Second, we advise that the mixing of managed bumblebees with wild bees should be prevented by using nets over glasshouses containing managed bumblebees. Finally, we recommend an increased conservation effort to limit the effects of managed bee use in areas suffering wild bee declines.
In this review I also give an overview of the history of the commercialisation of bumblebees – a relatively new industry.
Florally transmitted diseases (FTDs): a newly discovered threat to bee communities.
Today some more of my research was published. In it I show that diseased bees deposit parasites on to the flowers they visit. These parasites can then infect healthy bees visiting the same flowers, or be transported by an unsusceptible bee species to other flowers to reach their host species.
I allowed bumblebees from hives infected with three different bumblebee diseases to forage on a patch of flowers in a flight cage for a period of 3 hours before removing them from the cage. Then I released disease-free honey bees into the cage and allowed them to forage for a further 3 hours on the same flowers, as well as a patch of uncontaminated flowers which were brought in at the same time. Immediately afterwards, the shared flower patch, the honeybee only flower patch and the honey bees were all screened for the bumblebee parasites with alarming results. All three of the parasites were detected on the shared flowers, while two out of three were detected on the flowers which only the honeybees had access to, as well as inside the honeybee colonies.
The experiment was repeated using honeybees from hives infected with two honeybee diseases and disease-free bumblebees and yielded similarly worrying results. Both parasites were found on the shared flowers, as well as on the flowers which only bumblebees had access to, and one of the two parasites was detected inside the bumblebee colony.
The study also compared how two different flower types aid the dispersal of bee parasites, and found that bell shaped Fairy’ thimble flowers contained higher parasite loads than more open Pansy flowers. This is likely because the bees spend more time in contact with bell-shaped flowers than they do with more easily accessible open flowers.
These results suggest that flowers play an important role in the transmission of diseases between bees.
“The upshot of this is that a range of parasites in diseased bee populations, such as infectious imported bees, may spread to wild bee populations that forage on the same flowers. On a wider level, flowers as parasite hotspots suggests that areas where there is a lot of pollinator traffic per flower, for example areas with low flower density, may have high parasite dispersal between pollinators compared to areas with low pollinator traffic per flower, such as flower rich areas.”
Today I join the labgroup of Quinn McFrederick at the University of California, Riverside. The McFrederick lab studies interactions amongst the microbiota of wild and solitary bees, with the goal of determining how these interactions affect host phenotype. This research dovetails with my background on bumblebee parasites and their effect on the bumblebee. We will spend the next 2 years bringing these research themes together as we study wild bees in California.
I’ve had a great time being part of the Sumner lab at the University of Bristol but as my contract comes to an end, I have accepted a position at the University of California to work with Quinn McFrederick looking at symbionts in wild bees.
Bristol has provided me with a wealth of experience looking at next generation sequence data and getting to grips with some of the latest bioinformatics programs. In addition, I’ve met and learnt from some amazing scientists at Bristol.
This list should give an idea of the diversity of experiences I’ve had in my year at Bristol:
David Attenborough, Salmon, Grillstock, QIIME, white bear, EMBL, longevity, Dairy cow onesies, new buildings, Pints of science, bird nests, SNPs, invasive ants, Proactis, Halle, CT rooms, cryinformatics, bumblebees, Liverpool, Playground outreach, Coffee, wasps, fire-drills, Super-B, HotSHOTs, Festival of Nature, Stacks, parasites, Tuxedo, TGAC, Didcot and the NERC Awards.
Back left to right: Peter Graystock, Patrick Kennedy, Robin Southon, Emily Bell, Daisy Taylor, Sam Duckerin, Adam Devenish. Front left to right: Seirian Sumner, Aoife Glass
SUPER-B brings together scientific and societal communities involved in the conservation and sustainable management of ecosystem services mediated by pollinators. This week we addressed the growing issue of non standardised disease screening in wild pollinators. In attendance were over 20 researchers of bee disease and we spent the week going over screening methods and technologies to try to increase conformity amongst researchers across Europe.
Its been an interesting week and meeting colleagues new and old has been a lot of fun!
In preparation to the NERC awards, the NERC organised for a short video on my research to be produced. This video is now available to view
I’ve had a great evening at the NERC awards. Whilst I didn’t win, I came runner-up which means I get funding to continue researching threats commercial bees may pose to wild bees…and I got a cupcake!
In my category of ‘Early career impact’, Professor Hannah Cloke won for her work developing new techniques and methods to forecast flooding. The award evening, hosted at the Royal Institute of British Architects in London, was a huge networking event with key industrial partners attending and provided a platform to launch the NERC 50th anniversary year, celebrating half a century of ground-breaking science.
NERC has all the winners and runners up listed on their website: http://www.nerc.ac.uk/latest/events/impact/finalists/
Today I had the pleasure of hosting the visit of Professor Mark Brown to the University of Bristol.
It was great to see Mark but his visit was a hectic blend of food, refreshments and a discussion group with graduate students before treating us to a seminar on his work on bumblebee nematodes.
Statement from Natural England on bumblebee licensing for 2015
Natural England has now completed reviewing the responses to our recent public consultation on the licensing of the release of non native bumblebees for the purposes of crop pollination and research. Currently the release of these commercially reared pollinators is permitted under Natural England’s class licence WML-CL22. Defra and Natural England wish to see the use of native commercial bumblebees as the default position for growers and researchers in England.
In light of the risks identified in the recent risk assessment on the release of non native bumblebees, the ability of the bumblebee producers to rear native bumblebees and the fact that many growers have already switched to using native hives, Natural England has decided not to renew class licence WML-CL22 for 2015. The majority of the respondents to our consultation also supported the move to greater use of native bumblebees.
Some respondents did tell us of their concerns about the bumblebee industry not being able to supply enough native bumblebees at the right time to ensure crop pollination. We consider that good forward planning by the industry, suppliers and growers will address many of these concerns. However, we have decided that in the unlikely situation that there is a shortage of native hives we will issue an emergency class licence which will permit growers and researchers to release non native bumblebees when it is not possible to obtain native hives.
Growers and researchers who wish to release non native bumblebees in any other circumstances will need to apply to Natural England for an individual licence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act. Applicants will need to demonstrate a clear need to release non native bumblebees, rather than native bumblebees, as part of the licensing process.
How this change will work
Class licence WML-CL22 will cease on the 31st December 2014. Those few growers who are still using non native bumblebees in January to March 2015 may continue to use them so long as the hives were introduced into the greenhouse / poly-tunnel before 1st January 2015 – ie there will be no need to remove non native hives which are already in use on the 1st January.
With the termination of WML-CL22 all growers and researchers who had previously registered to release non native bumblebees, and had kept this registration active by sending in annual licence returns, will no longer be registered to release non native bumblebees. However, it is still a condition of class licence WML-CL22 that growers and researchers need to send in a licence return if they released non native bumblebees during 2014.
If growers and researchers need to make use of the 2015 emergency class licence they will need to email or ring NE’s Bristol office (contact details will be provided on the class licence which will be available on the government website) at the time that it becomes apparent that their suppliers can not provide them with native hives. It will no longer be possible to register to use this emergency licence at the start of the year in anticipation that a supplier may have difficulty providing enough native hives. The following information will be required:
- Address where non native bumblebees will be released, including site post code
- Provide a short description of the site – greenhouses, poly-tunnels or both
- Crops which will be pollinated by the non native bumblebees
- If for research use – the nature of research to be carried out using non native bumblebees
- Explanation as to why native commercial bumblebees were not available and the actions taken to obtain native hives.
Natural England will review the use of this emergency class licence to ensure that this is only being used in genuine emergencies. We will take account of the situation that some growers will be in pollination service agreements and may not be able to terminate these agreements. In these circumstances we will seek the reasoning from these service providers as to why they have been unable to supply native hives.
More from Natural England here
Bumblebees face new immigration rules (Buglife – The Invertebrate Conservation Trust)
Response to consultation to permit the release of non native subspecies of the bumblebee (The Bumblebee Conservation Trust)
NERC is the UK’s main agency for funding and managing research, training and knowledge exchange in the environmental sciences. To mark its 50th anniversary, NERC are hosting their inaugural Impact Awards. The awards recognise and reward NERC-funded researchers whose work has had substantial impact on the economy and society.
My shortlisting is as a result of the work i have been carrying out during and since my PhD, investigating the threats to conservation that the importation of commercially reared bumblebees pose to native bumblebees and honey bees.
I now will have an interview in January followed by an award ceremony where the winner and runnerup will be announced. As part of the ceremony a short video of my work will be shown which will be filmed in December (not a great month to show bumblebees!), so that’s all very exciting and ever so slightly nerve wrecking!!
For more information, see the NERC announcement here
Today i was delighted to be part of an important work group to discuss the role of ‘omics data in assessing adverse effects of chemicals in the environment. The current approach to assessing adverse effects of chemicals in the environment is largely based on a battery of in-vivo study methods and a limited number of accepted in-silico approaches. For most substances the pool of data from which to predict ecosystem effects is limited and often only short term data are available. The EC Scientific Committee Consultation paper ‘Addressing the New Challenges for Risk Assessment’ (2012) highlights some of the main deficiencies of current risk assessment approaches.
Image from Madden et al 2014
The workgroup brought together experts from the academic, industry and regulatory authority communities to discuss and define the role of ‘omics’ techniques as part of the AOP framework to support environmental risk assessment of chemicals, especially those used in consumer products.
It was a very busy day with much discussion with great people and the production of a large body of collaborated knowledge. We hope this will be converted in to a short review on the future of the AOP framework. watch this space!
Had a really great time there and the University of Liverpool is a really nice campus. Was good to meet so many new faces and really get a good feel about what direction ‘omics research is heading in.
– Also, conference dinner in a massive greenhouse! brilliant!
Thanks to the conference organiser, Professor F. Falciani, and everyone else who made it such an interesting 3 days
Today i had the pleasure of attending the NERC Biomolecular Analysis Facility (NBAF) workshop on metabolomics.
Metabolomics is the study of chemical processes involving metabolites. Specifically, metabolomics is the “systematic study of the unique chemical fingerprints that specific cellular processes leave behind” and metabolic profiling can give an instantaneous snapshot of the physiology of a particular cell.
Its an area I’ve no experience and went into the workshop with no burning ‘need’ to attend. It turns out this was mostly due to my own ignorance. The applicability of metabolomics research is vast! From parasite to pesticide to stress effects, the things mebaolombics can uncover are astonishing! I’m a complete convert to metabolomics. I just need to come up with that killer metabolomics projects now…and the funding!
Today I started putting the finishing touches on the Sumner Lab website that showcases some of the work my Principal investigator Dr Seirian Sumner and her group have been producing. L Hopefully with help from the rest of the group, we will keep this updates with the groups output!
To find out more, visit www.sumnerlab.co.uk
Mixing with managed bees may be to blame for increased diseases in wild bumblebees, prompting concern for their conservation, scientists have warned. It has been discovered that bumblebees suffer from more parasites when they are collected from around sites using managed bees.
Managed honey bees and bumblebees are frequently used by apiarists and farmers for their honey production or pollination services. The introduction of managed bees can increase the number of pollinators competing for resources in a given area and this can have ramifications to native pollinators.
It feels like its been a long time coming! 4 years of ‘messing about with bees’, the compilation of a 7 chapter thesis, handing it in, a VIVA, some minor corrections and handing in the final, final draft (which by then bore the name ‘Final2_edited3_new_currentX’). I today had the formality of the graduation ceremony. It may have been one of the hottest days of the year but nothing was stopping me from donning my massive green gown on top of my suite.
From Friday to Sunday, academics from the university of Bristol entertained the public of Bristol at the Festival of Nature in Millennium square. In what has been 3 brilliantly warm and sunny days, I’ve been talking about bumblebees and their importance and the threat of parasites to pollinators, wild mammals and even humans!
With live bumblebee colonies, microscopes, slides of parasites, cow themed onesies and live parasites, its been a really fun (and busy!) few days engaging with almost 5,000 people about our research.
Today i start my next Postdoc position. Working in the lab of Dr Seirian Sumner at the University of Bristol, I will be exploring population genetics of various organisms including pollinators. There is plenty of scope for me gain experience with novel molecular techniques to explore new questions in the future so it’s very exciting!
To celebrate a joint meeting on the subject of bee health hosted by the Biochemical Society, the British Ecological Society and the Society for Experimental Biology in January 2014, the BES has compiled this virtual issue on Pollinator Ecology. The included papers are drawn from all five journals and provide examples of the latest research in pollinator ecology from flower visitation and ecosystem services, to the effects of invasive pollinators, agriculture, pesticides and bee pathogens. We hope that this selection of papers will be of interest to researchers and stakeholders in this highly topical field.
The full issue can be found here