Prevalence of Nosema microsporidians in commercial bumblebees (Bombus terrestris) is not related to the intensity of their use at the landscape scale

Alejandro Trillo, Mark Brown, Montserrat Vila

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The use of commercial bumblebees to aid crop pollination may result in overcrowding of agricultural landscapes by pollinators. Consequently, transmission of parasites between pollinators via shared flowers may be substantial. Here we assessed the initial infection status of commercial Bombus terrestris colonies, and then explored spatial and seasonal influences on changes in parasite prevalence across a landscape where bumblebee colonies are intensively used to pollinate berry crops in SW Spain. Colonies were placed inside strawberry greenhouse crops and in woodlands adjacent and distant to crops in winter and in spring, as representative periods of high and low use of colonies, respectively. Worker bumblebees were collected from colonies upon arrival from a producer and 30 days after being placed in the field. The abdomen of each bumblebee was morphologically inspected for a range of internal parasites. Upon arrival 71% of the colonies were infected by spores of Nosema. Three bumblebees from two colonies harbored A. bombi spores at the end of their placement in woodlands adjacent to crops. Nosema colony prevalence did not change significantly either among sites or between seasons. We found no evidence for the density of commercial B. terrestris impacting Nosema epidemiology in those commercial colonies, but our results highlight the potential risk for parasites to be transmitted from commercial bumblebees to native pollinators.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)234-242
Number of pages9
Issue number2
Early online date3 Apr 2019
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2019

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