With the threat neonicotinoid use poses to honeybees gaining international attention, researchers are now focused on finding other factors that are contributing to a worrying decline in bees across the globe. Climate change, they say, is certainly to blame, and parasites may be one reason why.
That's at least according to a team of researchers at Queen's University Belfast, who have found evidence that the spread of an exotic parasite that threatens the UK's honeybee population could be sped up by global warming.
The parasite in question, Nosema ceranae, has long been a pest to honeybee populations. Parasites that invade a hive can spoil food supplies, larvae, and even disrupt wintering, causing bees to abandon their hives in what is called Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) - a wide-spread problem that deadly pesticides (neonics) are largely at fault for.
With this invasive parasite exacerbating the CCD problem, researchers are worried that its increasing prevalence could prevent honeybee populations from ever recovering.
A study recently published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B even details how N. ceranae, hailing from Asia, is bullying out bee parasites native to the United Kingdom.
"Our results reveal not only that the exotic parasite is a better competitor than its close relatives, but that its widespread distribution and patterns of prevalence in nature depend on climatic conditions too," researcher Myrsini Natsopoulou said in a recent statement.
It had previously been thought that N. ceranae was not a major threat to global bee populations because the parasite is particularly susceptible to the cold. However, according to researcher Adjunct Reader, this may soon not be the case.
"In the face of rising global temperatures, our findings suggest that it will increase in prevalence and potentially lead to increased honey bee colony losses in Britain," he explained.
This, of course, is not the first time researchers have linked bee decline factors to climate change. Researchers are finding that certain bee populations are declining with the flowers that they have adapted to pollinate, while changing seasonal weather is causing the windows of time when bee workers emerge and specialized flowers bloom to fall out of sync.
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