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Big study raises worries about bees trading diseases

Pathogens may jump from commercial colonies to the wild

DISEASE MIX  Parasites and viruses found in honeybees can also infect bumblebees (one shown).

Commercial bees in stressful, often unhygienic working conditions may spread their pathogens to wild pollinators, a large study suggests.

These are tough times for bees, both in the wild and in colonies that commercial beekeepers and farmers manage. Several small studies have already raised the possibility that the substantial number of viruses and parasites plaguing commercial honeybees and bumblebees are spreading to wild bees that visit the same flowers (SN: 8/16/08, p. 10).

Lab tests plus a bee-disease survey in Great Britain now show that pathogens from honeybees can also trouble bumblebees, says Matthias Fürst of the Institute of Science and Technology Austria in Klosterneuburg. He and his colleagues present their data in the Feb. 20 Nature.

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