November 9, 2015

Living in the City Stresses Bees Out, Study Suggests (UrbanFarmOnline.com)

Andrey Pavlov/Hemera/Thinkstock

A certain amount of stress goes along with living in a city. It could be the smog that gets to you. It could be the large number of people, the cost, the traffic or a number of other factors. While we know that humans face these stressors daily, what we may not have known is that bees do too.

According to a study led by Steve Frank, Associate Professor of Entomology at North Carolina State University, bees that live in the city are exposed to more stressors than bees that live in suburban or country areas. Frank and his team “questioned whether factors in urban environments could increase the pathogens bees are exposed to and affect how bees’ immune systems might respond,” livescience reports.

The researchers discovered that the bees in the city do encounter more deadly pathogens than those living in other areas. Partial responsibility could lie in bee population density, according to livescience, in that these bees are “competing for limited resources… With a limited number of pollen-rich destinations to share, colonies of city bees get up close and personal with each other — and share plenty of microbial hitchhikers in the process.” The team also suggests that the reason may be due to the city environment itself; that it could be a more hospitable location for breeding pathogens.

Research for the study concluded that feral bees in the city are more likely to survive such pathogens because their immune system is stronger. However, bees kept by beekeepers may be more likely to peril in the same situation. According to livescience, “Managed bees typically live in much larger colonies; more individuals in a hive means more stress, and can also mean more opportunities to spread viruses and parasites. And the pesticides that beekeepers use to protect their bees from mites and other pests can have the unfortunate side effect of reducing the bees’ ability to defend themselves against pathogen attacks.”

A researcher in the study, David Tarpy, told livescience that the next step is finding out why bees are declining.

If you’d like to read the study, visit PLOS ONE.

 



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