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More diverse bee populations are less susceptible to disease

Bees.jpeg
Dan Wanschura
/
Interlochen Public Radio
Beekeeper Adam Ingrao checks on some beehives owned by Michigan State University, in Traverse City.

Areas with more species of bees have healthier bees, according to a recent study from the University of Michigan.

Ecologist Michelle Fearon studied four species of bees at farms across Michigan, documenting the frequency of three viruses that are known to affect bees in the region. These viruses are spread between bees through infected pollen on flowers previously visited by sick bees.

Fearon found that sites with more types of bees have less disease than sites with fewer species.

“And that is a really cool finding,” she says, “because it suggests that if we are conserving these bees and encouraging really diverse pollinator communities, we might be also reducing the risk of virus transmission.”

The study also suggests it’s possible that having more species of bees in an area can help dilute disease among the total bee population. Some bees are less likely to spread the viruses than others, so having more types of bees at any given flower makes it harder for disease to spread.

Fearon says you can do your part to help native bees thrive by planting gardens with pollinator friendly plants.

“In Michigan we have over 400 bee species, and they're really effective pollinators of crops,” she says. “So promoting them in your gardens is a really wonderful thing to do.