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Parasite pressures on feral honey bees (Apis mellifera sp.)

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Giles Budge

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Abstract

Feral honey bee populations have been reported to be in decline due to the spread of Varroa destructor, an ectoparasitic mite that when left uncontrolled leads to virus build-up and colony death. While pests and diseases are known causes of large-scale managed honey bee colony losses, no studies to date have considered the wider pathogen burden in feral colonies, primarily due to the difficulty in locating and sampling colonies, which often nest in inaccessible locations such as church spires and tree tops. In addition, little is known about the provenance of feral colonies and whether they represent a reservoir of Varroa tolerant material that could be used in apiculture. Samples of forager bees were collected from paired feral and managed honey bee colonies and screened for the presence of ten honey bee pathogens and pests using qPCR. Prevalence and quantity was similar between the two groups for the majority of pathogens, however feral honey bees contained a significantly higher level of deformed wing virus than managed honey bee colonies. An assessment of the honey bee race was completed for each colony using three measures of wing venation. There were no apparent differences in wing morphometry between feral and managed colonies, suggesting feral colonies could simply be escapees from the managed population. Interestingly, managed honey bee colonies not treated for Varroa showed similar, potentially lethal levels of deformed wing virus to that of feral colonies. The potential for such findings to explain the large fall in the feral population and the wider context of the importance of feral colonies as potential pathogen reservoirs is discussed. © 2014 Thompson et al.


Publication metadata

Author(s): Thompson CE, Biesmeijer JC, Allnutt TR, Pietravalle S, Budge GE

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: PLoS ONE

Year: 2014

Volume: 9

Issue: 8

Online publication date: 15/08/2014

Acceptance date: 21/07/2014

Date deposited: 29/05/2018

ISSN (electronic): 1932-6203

Publisher: Public Library of Science

URL: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0105164

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0105164

PubMed id: 25126840


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