Story at a glance

  • Honey bee colonies have to deal with a variety of diseases.
  • In addition to that, they experience changes in climate like increasing temperatures and heavy rainfall.
  • A new analysis of 10 years of data finds that some diseases become more prevalent with increasing temperatures.

Honey bee researchers have been focused on colony health for several years, especially because of colony collapses that have been happening more frequently. They’ve studied everything from parasitic loads to pesticide use. In a paper published in Scientific Reports, a team of researchers based in Newcastle, U.K., are drawing links between honey bee hive health and climate.

The team found that disease caused by Varroa mites increased when climate temperatures escalated but were reduced during heavy rainfall and wind. The researchers analyzed data from more than 300,000 visits to honey bee colonies between 2006 and 2016.

The prevalence of disease varies each year in addition to geographical variations. Along with varroosis caused by the Varroa mite, there are several other diseases to be concerned about, including sacbrood and chalkbrood.

The researchers found that the climatic variables had significant impact on the spatial and temporal variations in disease in the honey bee colonies.

“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,” said Ben Rowland, the study lead, in a press release. “Our work highlights some interesting contrasts; for example, rainfall can drive one disease to become more common whilst another will become rarer.”


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Looking forward, experts can build off of this knowledge by further investigating these potential links between health of a colony and climatic factors. It may become more important as the effects of climate change become more and more apparent. “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 Giles Budge, senior author on the paper, in the press release. “This new knowledge will help us predict how honey bee disease might be influenced by future climate change.”


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Published on Nov 15, 2021