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Fugitives spread bumblebee diseases

Pathogens hitchhike on commercial bees that escape from greenhouses

5:55pm, July 23, 2008

Bumblebees sneak out from work, too, and fugitives buzzing away from the job at commercial greenhouses could be spreading diseases to wild bumblebees and contributing to pollinator declines.

Greenhouse growers bring in the bumblebees for tomatoes and other crops that need what’s called “buzz pollination,” a strong vibration that shakes loose the pollen. Honeybees don’t give the buzz, but bumblebees do.

Some of the commercial bumblebees escape their greenhouses and forage among the flowers outdoors, mingling with local wild bees. Observations

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