Host density drives viral, but not trypanosome, transmission in a key pollinator

Emily Jane Bailes, Judit Bagi, Jake Coltman, Michelle T Fountain, Lena Wilfert, Mark J F Brown

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Supplemental feeding of wildlife populations can locally increase the density of individuals, which may in turn impact disease dynamics. Flower strips are a widely-used intervention in intensive agricultural systems to nutritionally support pollinators such as bees. Using a controlled experimental semi-field design, we asked how density impacts transmission of a virus and a trypanosome parasite in bumblebees. We manipulated bumblebee density by using different numbers of colonies within the same area of floral resource. In high density compartments, slow bee paralysis virus (SBPV) was transmitted more quickly, resulting in higher prevalence and level of infection in bumblebee hosts. In contrast, there was no impact of density on the transmission of the trypanosome Crithidia bombi, which may reflect the ease with which this parasite is transmitted. These results suggest that agri-environment schemes such as flower strips, which are known to enhance the nutrition and survival of bumblebees, may also have negative impacts on pollinators through enhanced disease transmission. Future studies should assess how changing the design of these schemes could minimise disease transmission and thus maximise their health benefits to wild pollinators.
Original languageEnglish
Article number20191969
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series B, Biological Sciences
Issue number1918
Early online date8 Jan 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 8 Jan 2020

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