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Climate Change

Climate change could create ‘new disease hotspots’ for honey bees

“This new knowledge will help us predict how honey bee disease might be influenced by future climate change.”



A cute, frontal closeup on a male Jersey Mason Bee, Osmia Nivedita

By Tom Campbell via SWNS

Climate change could create new disease hotspots for honey bees in the UK, scientists have warned.

Colonies in areas where temperatures are rising could find themselves being plagued by disease-carrying parasites, according to a new study.

Bees, the world’s most important pollinators, can suffer from a range of damaging diseases and viruses.


One of the most deadly, known as varroosis, is caused by parasitic mites which attach themselves to the bee's body and feed off its fat.

Now, scientists at Newcastle University have found climate change could be redrawing the ‘disease map’ for honey bees.

Warmer areas with little rainfall or wind favor the spread of pests and diseases which could cripple honey bee populations.

Author, post-doctoral student Ben Rowland said: “Our analysis clearly shows that the risk of a colony contracting one of the diseases we examined is influenced by the weather conditions experienced by that colony.

“Our work highlights some interesting contrasts; for example, rainfall can drive one disease to become more common whilst another will become rarer.”

The UK has an estimated 274,000 honey bee hives, the majority of which are maintained by amateur keepers, but their overall population is thought to have declined since the 1970s.

More than 300,000 visits to honey bee colonies were carried out to collect data on six important diseases and examine how they were impacted by different weather conditions including rainfall, temperature and wind.

Varroosis - the most severe condition, increased as the temperature rose, but dropped off during heavy rainfall or strong winds, the researchers found.

Whether ‘rain or shine’ affected disease hotspots across the UK was also investigated by the researchers.

The South West of England was particularly vulnerable to the disease carrying mites, they found.

Hot spots for another “notifiable and damaging” disease called European foulbrood were also discovered in Powys, Shropshire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire.

There are over 250 species of bee in the UK, including 25 species of bumble bee, 224 species of solitary bee and one honey bee species.

Despite their differences, they are all vital to maintaining biodiversity by pollinating wild plants and crops.

“We have long known that weather can influence the ability of honey bees to leave the hive and forage for food, but to better understand how our climate can influence honey bee disease is fascinating!," said senior author professor Giles Budge.

“This new knowledge will help us predict how honey bee disease might be influenced by future climate change.”

The findings were published in the journal Scientific Reports.

To learn more about how to protect bees in America visit here.

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