Bringing Back a Healthy Buzz? Invertebrate Parasites and Reintroductions: A Case Study in Bumblebees

Mark Brown, Anthony W Sainsbury, Rebecca J Vaughan-Higgins, Gavin H Measures, Catherine M Jones, Nikki Gammans

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Reintroductions can play a key role in the conservation of endangered species. Parasites may impact reintroductions, both positively and negatively, but few case studies of how to manage parasites during reintroductions exist. Bumblebees are in decline at regional and global scales, and reintroductions can be used to re-establish extinct local populations. Here we report on how the risks associated with parasites are being managed in an ongoing reintroduction of the short-haired bumblebee, Bombus subterraneus, to the UK. Disease risk analysis was conducted and disease risk management plans constructed to design a capture-quarantine-release system that minimized the impacts on both the bumblebees and on their natural parasites. Given that bumblebee parasites are (i) generalists, (ii) geographically ubiquitous, and (iii) show evidence of local adaptation, the disease risk management plan was designed to limit the co-introduction of parasites from the source population in Sweden to the destination site in the UK. Results suggest that this process at best eliminated, or at least severely curtailed the co-introduction of parasites, and ongoing updates of the plan enabled minimization of impacts on natural host-parasite dynamics in the Swedish source population. This study suggests that methods designed for reintroductions of vertebrate species can be successfully applied to invertebrates. Future reintroductions of invertebrates where the parasite fauna is less well-known should take advantage of next-generation barcoding and multiple survey years prior to the start of reintroductions, to develop comprehensive disease risk management plans.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)74-83
Number of pages10
Issue numberSupplement 1
Early online date5 Jan 2016
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2017

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