Honey bee colonies from across the UK are increasingly suffering from a viral disease, a new study has shown.
Emergence of deadly honey bee disease revealed
Publishing their findings in the journal Nature Communications, the team led by Professor Giles Budge of Newcastle University, UK, found that the number of honey bee colonies affected with chronic bee paralysis rose exponentially between 2007 and 2017.
Data collected from visits to over 24,000 beekeepers confirmed that while chronic bee paralysis was only recorded in Lincolnshire in 2007, a decade later it was present in 39 of 47 English and six of eight Welsh counties. The scientists also found that clusters of chronic bee paralysis, where disease cases are found close together, were becoming more frequent.
Chronic bee paralysis symptoms include abnormal trembling, an inability to fly, and the development of shiny, hairless abdomens. The disease is caused by a virus known as chronic bee paralysis virus (CBPV), and infected bees die within a week. This leads to piles of dead bees just outside honey bee hives and whole colonies are frequently lost to the disease.
Study lead, Professor Budge, from Newcastle University’s School of Natural and Environmental Sciences, said: “Our analysis clearly confirms that chronic bee paralysis has been emerging across England and Wales since 2007 and that apiaries owned by professional beekeepers are at greater risk of the disease.”
The study was completed in association with the Bee Farmers’ Association, who represent professional beekeepers in the UK. Rob Nickless, the Chairman of the Bee Farmers’ Association, said:
“We are pleased to be part of this project and welcome these early results. This is the sort of research that brings practical benefits to the industry—helping bee farmers at grassroots level to improve honey bee health and increase UK honey production.”
Professor Budge said: “We do not yet know why colonies of bee farmers are at increased risk from this damaging disease, but many management practices are known to differ significantly between amateur and professional apiarists.”
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