Could Imported Bumblebees be Damaging our Wildlife?

Scientists have made an alarming discovery that could have alarming environmental consequences. It has been discovered that thousands of imported colonies of bumblebees are infected with a parasite that could be transmitted to native bees, and could even wipe them out.


This discovery has deeply worrying implications for the wellness and wellbeing of the UK’s wild bumblebees and honeybees, especially since the population of these is already in severe decline.


The study revealed that more than three-quarters of the colonies that are imported into the UK each year are full of parasites, and that these parasites could easily spill over and start affecting native bees. Urgent action is now needed to work out what to do about this situation and how to ensure the continued survival of these all-important species.


Effects of the parasites include killing the bees outright by harming their ability to function, which means that they are unable to find food, which is crucial to survival. This has already been a serious problem in Argentina, where native bees are being driven to near extinction by parasites which they have caught from imported bees.


Bees are imported for numerous reasons in their millions, and the UK currently receives around 40 – 50 thousand colonies every year. These are generally used to pollinate greenhouse crops, including tomatoes. Although the bees that are sold by these companies are claimed to be ‘disease free’, a recent study used DNA tests to find up to five different parasites on the bees themselves and around three on the food that was provided with them in transit.


The results were published in the Journal of Applied Ecology and also showed that three of these parasites had the capacity to infect bumblebees and four of them would be able to infect honeybees. This has led to urgent calls for the checking of the producers’ disease-free claims in more detail.

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