Impacts of non-native bumblebees in Western Europe and North America

Goulson, Dave (2010) Impacts of non-native bumblebees in Western Europe and North America. Applied Entomology and Zoology, 45 (1). pp. 7-12. ISSN 0003-6862

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The earliest deliberate introductions of bumblebees to areas outside of their native range occurred over 100 years ago. Transportation of bumblebees accelerated in the late 1980s following the development of techniques for mass rearing them, and their widespread adoption as the preferred pollinator for a range of glasshouse crops, primarily tomatoes. There is now a worldwide trade in one species, Bombus terrestris dalmatinus, originating from south east Europe. Within North America, which does not allow the importation of B. terrestris, the trade is primarily in Bombus impatiens. Trade in B. t. dalmatinus threatens the integrity of other subspecies within Europe, such as B. t. audax which is endemic to Britain and Ireland. However, there is a conspicuous absence of data as to whether B. t. dalmatinus has established in the wild outside its native range, and whether it interbreeds with native subspecies. Perhaps a more significant risk associated with trade in bumblebees is the accidental spread of parasites, and the subsequent risk that native bumblebee species may be exposed to parasites for which they have little resistance. There is circumstantial evidence that catastrophic declines of several North American bumblebee species may have been triggered by the accidental introduction of pathogens from Europe. Even if commercial bumblebee colonies are reared locally, the high densities at which they are kept mean that glasshouse nests are likely to act as reservoirs for spread of disease to wild bumblebee populations nearby. There is clearly the need for tight quarantining of bee colonies before transportation, and a moratorium should be placed on the transport of bumblebees in cases where native species suitable for commercial rearing are readily available.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Life Sciences > Evolution, Behaviour and Environment
Depositing User: Catrina Hey
Date Deposited: 24 Nov 2014 14:52
Last Modified: 24 Nov 2014 14:52
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