Most UK Bumblebee species are in steep decline; two species have gone extinct in recent years.
Recent research revealed that 50,000 artificially-bred bumblebee colonies are being commercially imported into the UK each year. A recent report found that 77% of these alien-imported bees carried dangerous parasites as well as: viruses, bacteria and fungal diseases. More than 1,000,000 factory bred colonies are being exported world-wide, spreading bee-diseases and pathogens to every country on the plant. This is a recipe for extinction of native bumblebees around the world.
These alien bumblebee colonies are largely being imported by Syngenta - a leading manufacturer of neonicotinoid pesticides, which many scientific studies have concluded are killing bumblebees in uncountable numbers.
Article first published online: 18
Over a million commercially produced bumblebee
colonies are imported annually on a global scale
the pollination of greenhouse crops.
importation, they interact with other pollinators, with
an associated risk of any parasites they carry infecting
and harming native bees. National and supranational
regulations are designed to prevent this, and
commercially produced bumblebee colonies are accordingly
now often sold and imported as being parasite-free.
Here, we used molecular methods to examine the
occurrence of parasites in bumblebee colonies that were
commercially produced in 2011 and 2012 by three
producers. We then used controlled experiments to
determine whether any parasites present were infectious.
We found that 77% of the commercially produced
bumblebee colonies from the three producers, which
were imported on the basis of being free of parasites,
in fact carried microbial parasites, with five
different parasites being detected across the total
sample of bumblebees and a further three in the pollen
supplied with the colonies as food.
Our controlled experiments demonstrated that
least three of these parasites were infectious to
bumblebees with significant negative effects on their
. Furthermore, we also found that at least
four of the parasites carried by commercially produced
bumblebees were infectious to honeybees,
indicating that they pose a risk to other pollinators as
Synthesis and applications
. The results
demonstrate that commercially produced bumblebee
colonies carry multiple, infectious parasites that pose
a significant risk to other native and managed
pollinators. More effective disease detection and
management strategies are urgently needed to reduce the
pathogen spillover threat from commercially produced
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