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More flowers and pollinator diversity could help protect bees from parasites - Imperial College London

Having more flowers and maintaining diverse bee communities could help reduce the spread of bee parasites, according to a new study.

The research, conducted on more than 5,000 flowers and bees, reveals how bee parasites spread and what measures could help control them.

Bees can be infected with a cocktail of parasites that can cause a range of symptoms from reduced foraging ability to dysentery and death. Though parasites contribute to bee declines, scientists are unsure how they spread between bee species.

Flowers are essential for bee health, but may also act as transmission hubs for bee diseases. Over a growing season the diversity and abundance of bees and flowers change but little is known about how this may be linked to the risk of parasite transmission.

The new study, published today in Nature Ecology and Evolution, suggests having more flowers and a more diverse bee community could help dilute the load of parasites, and that this may be particularly important in areas with high densities of social bees, such as honeybees and bumblebees.

Most studies of bee parasites focus on social bee species that often live in farmed colonies. Little is therefore known about the interactions between parasites and wild solitary bee species, or how parasites are transferred between them. The team behind the new paper studied how parasites are spread across diverse bee and flower communities, including solitary bee species.

Posted on: 21 July 2020

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