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Researchers find bumblebee populations affected by honeybee diseases

Honeybee diseases are now threatening colonies of another type of bee. According to BBC World News on Feb. 19, wild bumblebees are being affected by two diseases that are carried by honeybees.

A bumblebee arrives at a foxglove flower to collect pollen in St James's Park on May 23, 2011 in London, England.
A bumblebee arrives at a foxglove flower to collect pollen in St James's Park on May 23, 2011 in London, England.
Getty Images/ Oli Scarff

As published in the journal Nature, a team of researchers found bumblebees with a virus that causes deformed wings as well as a fungal parasite called Nosema ceranae. They stated that it is now up to beekeepers to keep their honeybees healthy to prevent the spread of the diseases to wild bumblebees.

BBC notes that globally, the bumblebee is not faring well. In the UK at least one species of bumblebee has already gone extinct.

Part of what contributes to their dwindling populations is the destruction of their habitats, including wildflower meadows. However, disease could also be a contributing factor. The deformed wing virus can cause very serious problems and when coupled with the parasite, it can cause an entire colony to collapse.

Researchers found that 11 percent of bumblebees were infected with deformed wing virus and 7 percent were infected with the fungus. Thirty-five percent of honeybees had DWV and 9 percent carried the fungus.

In addition to beekeepers keeping their honeybees healthy, researchers want to study the effects of pesticide on bee immune systems to determine if that is also a factor in bee health.